JUL 2018


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7 no critical flight surfaces made with thermoplastic composites in production. When it was my turn, I showed the Gulfstream parts on a slide, and realized that I had lost a potential academic friend. He simply did not know. Had he been from a European university, he probably would have known. e anti-thermoplastics bias in the US is not just from lack of knowledge, nor is it just because they're outside of the comfort zone. ermoplastic composites were overly hyped in the 1980s for military applications, and when they failed, as most entry-level technologies do on the first try, they got a real bad rap. Develop- ment of high-performance thermoplastic composites in the US was reduced to a crawl. In contrast, Airbus and the Dutch invested heavily in development of thermoplastic composites and began using tons of the material as early as the Airbus A320. By the way, Fokker is now manufacturing a rudder similar to that already in production, intended for multiple Gulfstream aircraft. Where will thermoplastics take us next? Because thermo- plastic prepreg tapes allow for full automation of complex shapes, improved properties and full recyclability (although, not everyone I've talked to is convinced of this) and reduced cost, they are the way to go. I've recently heard industry experts claim that a fuselage made with thermoplastic composites via automated fiber place- ment will still have to be autoclaved to ensure full consolidation. is perspective neglects two key points. First, some aerospace- grade thermoplastic tape is made with very low porosity (<0.5%, and made in the US) and it's only getting better. Second, given the recent, major advances in artificial intelligence-supported auto- mation, real-time quality management of the AFP process is very real and very close. Why else would Toray (Tokyo, Japan), Boeing's primary thermoset prepreg supplier, invest more than US$1 billion in thermoplastics specialist TenCate Advanced Composites (Morgan Hill, CA, US)? My prediction? e Fuselage of Tomorrow and/or the New Midsized Airplane will be made with thermo- plastic composites, and it/they will be built by 2025. Thermoplastic Aerocomposites Michael Favaloro is president of CompositeTechs LLC (Amesbury, MA, US), a team of experts that caters to composites industry technical, business development and market analysis needs. His 38 years in the industry has included work (1980-1999) at Avco Textron (Wilmington, MA, US), GE Aircraft Engines (Lynn, MA, US) and Beacon Power (Wilmington, MA, US). More recently, he supported business development of thermoplastics for Celanese (Dallas, TX, US) and TenCate (Morgan Hill, CA, US) in the oil and gas, aerospace, automotive and medical industries.

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