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AUG 2018

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AUGUST 2018 26 CompositesWorld INSIDE MANUFACTURING » As much as the aerocomposites industry says that it wants to get out of the autoclave and into fabrication technologies capable of faster throughput, the truth is that the autoclave is proving a difficult habit to break. It has to its credit decades of industry experience, mountains of applicable processing data to guide its reliable use, and plain old familiarity. And, quite simply, when it comes to the one job that matters more than all others when making composite primary structures — consolidating the laminates of very large composite structures to very low levels of void content — no other equipment or process does it better. Proof of this is not difficult to find. Aerocomposites for the Boeing 787, the Airbus A350 XWB and the forthcoming Boeing 777X all feature major aero- structures fabricated with carbon fiber prepregs in massive autoclaves. But, with these three programs in early or full production, the aerocomposites industry is looking to the future, and one of the big questions is whether out- of-autoclave manufacturing processes have a role to play on next-generation aircraft programs. Can they do what the autoclave does (or do it well enough to meet spec) at a rate that will satisfy OEM desires to pick up the pace of production on future aircraft models? Getting out of the autoclave means moving away from prepreg mate- rials, which have been the mainstay of aerocomposites manufacturing for decades. e alternative to prepreg is to begin with a dry fiber form, which must be impregnated with resin, either via vacuum bag infusion or resin transfer molding (RTM), each of which has its own challenges. e two biggest challenges, particularly in relation to aerospace manufacture, are Infused wing sheds light on aerocomposites future In the Irkut MS-21 infused and co-cured wings, the aerocomposites industry gets a glimpse of how out- of-autoclave technologies might be applied to primary aircraft structures. By Jeff Sloan / Editor-in-Chief

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