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New Hybrid Thermoplastic Composite Aerostructures manufactured by Out of Autoclave Continuous Automated Technologies

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NHYTE (New Hybrid Thermoplastic Composite Aerostructures manufactured by Out of Autoclave Continuous Automated Technologies)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2020-10-31

NHYTE project aims at developing concepts and methodologies which will enable the realization of innovative and green integrated aero-structures made by a new recyclable hybrid thermoplastic composite material with multifunctional capabilities. The new composite material answers to the need for reduced weight and consequently reduced fuel consumptions and emissions of an aircraft, as well as for more ecological and less costly manufacturing processes. This material will be fabricated by an innovative working cell implementing advanced and continuous automated production processes. Typical aero-structure made by using the new NHYTE material will be manufactured by robotic machine using new processes as: “In-Situ Consolidation Automated Fibre Placement (ISC AFP)”,“Continuous Compression Forming (CCF)” and will be assembled by “Induction Welding (IW)”. This concept on one side will provide advantages from the structural point of view, in terms of better impact damage performance, while on the other side major advantages will result on manufacturing process simplification, including improved cycle times and lower energy consumptions, since it does not require autoclave for consolidation phase. The proposed manufacturing technology has wide spectrum of applications, not confined to a certain typology of components. The generic nature, in fact, makes the processes proposed in this project suitable and profitable for other business areas, not only aerospace field. The ISC of thermoplastic materials by AFP process is an attractive manufacturing technology as it is fast, clean, automated and uses sustainable materials. Specific market opportunity will be explored for the innovative products investigated during the project, including hybrid material production, panel fabrication and composite assembly by welding, together with the final goal of design, production and certification of primary aircraft structure.
Main results of the NHYTE project are reported below:
1) Development of an innovative multifunctional thermoplastic prepreg material, based on a hybrid semicrystalline-amorphous polymer concept. Status: completed.
2) Development of a pre-industrial continuous automated process for fabrication of hybrid thermoplastic prepreg material suitable to be processed by Automated Fiber Placement machine. Status: completed.
3) Manufacturing of complex shape aero-structures by means of in-situ consolidation process made possible by Automated Fiber Placement technology and Continuous Forming process. Status: completed.
4) Application of the multifunctional material to realize an integrated aerostructure by using advanced out of autoclave joining methods for reducing fastener number and decreasing manufacturing and operational parts. Status: completed.
5) Optimization of products and processes to be developed with regard to their quality and cost, as well as environmental and Life Cycle Assessment, according to ECO-quotation procedures and weight and cost saving. Status: completed.
With regard to the communication aspects, the main tools that were used over the course of the NHYTE project for keeping the NHYTE community up to date with the project’s progress were the NHYTE official website and the social media accounts that were developed as part of “Exploitation & Dissemination” activities. The content of the official website and social media pages was frequently updated with the team’s major news, significant achievements and open access resources. The NHYTE public website can be accessed at: The Dissemination Activities section of the website includes all activities performed for promoting the project and its results. The News section of the website was constantly updated over the course of the project with the latest information related to NHYTE keeping this way our virtual community up to date with the latest news and achievements of the project. NHYTE profiles were created in LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube with the aim to widen the project’s diffusion. During the project lifetime, the PEDR was constantly under a continuous feedback assessment loop. Being an extrovert methodology, it needed to be continuously revised and updated throughout this period in order to ensure that the project’s technical achievements were presented to the right target groups, at the right time, using the proper language and tool.
"NHYTE project was conceived to respond and contribute to the renewed ACARE SRIA agenda, improving the aircraft environmental impact by a reduction of CO2 emissions and NOx, as well as decrease the particulate matter. To achieve such improvements they have been developed implementing advanced manufacturing technologies, able to reduce processing time and also the weight of an aircraft. The main concept of NHYTE project was to develop an innovative automated working cell enabling the realization of highly integrated and green aerostructures made by a new hybrid thermoplastic composite material with multifunctional capabilities. Limitations of thermoplastic composites that NHYTE project aimed to overcome are: lack of automated and fast processes to manufacture thermoplastic complex structures for the aerospace sector; problems in joining thermoplastic composite parts using structural adhesives. The impact of the developments foreseen by the NHYTE project could be very high, since currently these structures can be processed in very expensive autoclaves able to reach high temperatures (around 400°C for PEEK composite structures) and slow cooling rate. The new hybrid material investigated in the project allows to manufacture advanced composite aerostructures by fast and automated processes at a temperature not too high, just above melting temperature of amorphous layer (just above 210°C). Consortium has transformed some ‘state of the art’ aircraft concepts into more efficient transport, both by increasing structure efficiency and by a more straightforward use of modern materials and processes. Particularly the deliverable ""D5.1 - First technology benefit assessment report"" illustrates a benefit assessment of the technology including a comparison between costs/savings for processing and performance of the new hybrid thermoplastic composite material developed in the frame of NHYTE project. The successful completion of the project, confirmed by the deliverable issued in WP3, 4 and 6, show that the new hybrid thermoplastic material concept represents a good starting point to develop new composite material families, enabling the production of next generation aerostructures. It is noticed that with validation of the amorphous bonding concept, NHYTE consortium has achieved a significant step forward with respect to the current state of art of ISC by AFP technology, because the implementation of an out of autoclave production process, featured by usage of robotized and continuous manufacturing systems, has the potential to reduce cycle duration coupled with reduced environmental impact. At the same time the achieved results pointed out some aspects as future steps to continue the development of the new material for a complete industrial application."