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Joint replacement options for aircraft

Guidelines and design rules have been established, which mean that aircraft parts are now easier to manufacture. Making parts simpler in design and assembly enables flexibility and rapid reaction to market demand.
Joint replacement options for aircraft
There are two major problems with composites for complex aircraft parts that make them very expensive to produce. They often require costly tooling and processing equipment and they have a high number of processing faults during their manufacture.

The EU-funded project 'Modular joints for aircraft composite structures' (MOJO) set out to overcome these problems. The challenge for MOJO was to create synergy between two quite different processing techniques for assembling composite structures: preformed resin infusion and structural adhesive bonding. The first occurs when the preform consisting of the fibre material (and other assembly parts or fittings) is added to the mould before the resin, which is added afterwards by an infusion process. A structural adhesive is one that contributes substantially to the structural integrity of the product being assembled.

The development phases followed the different steps needed for composite manufacturing, i.e. definition of requirements, preformed components preparation, infusion (including tooling), assembly rigs and testing. A full-size aerospace structure using all the features developed in the project was made. It is one of the very first aeronautical structures designed for assembly by structural adhesive bonding, which provides damage-tolerant characteristics.

Since structural bonding is the most compatible joining method for composite parts, adhesive processes with both film and paste adhesive have been developed and successfully used for the assembly. The aerospace structure was evaluated for its physical properties. A preliminary study showed that 60 % cost savings and 50 % weight savings could be achieved, respectively. The aircraft applications could include wing struts, tail planes and cargo doors, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.

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