Advancements in composite manufacturing have helped aerospace manufacturers design better aircraft. Composite materials are good for creating strong, durable structures that are lightweight. Lightweighting is important in the aerospace industry because reduced weight improves aircraft performance.
The use of composites has increased since the pandemic. Supply disruptions caused by COVID-19 hiked up the price of aircraft materials while also making them harder to obtain. Composite manufacturing enabled aerospace engineers to fill this materials gap.
Since then, the benefits associated with using composite materials have led these materials to become a more popular option for aerospace manufacturing. The future of the aerospace industry will continue to benefit from innovations in composite manufacturing.
Advancements in Composite Manufacturing for Aerospace
Composite manufacturing occurs when two or more materials are joined together to create something new, often known as a composite or composite material. Manufacturers make composites when they want to combine different properties from two or more materials. The new composite will have all the desired properties of the combined elements, which allows engineers to use one material to meet all of their needs.
The aerospace industry has recently become more focused on sustainability and is working to minimize its carbon footprint. One way to do so is through advancements in aircraft design. Fabricating lightweight composite materials enables manufacturers to make aircraft lighter and therefore more fuel-efficient.
Another important aspect of aircraft design is consistency in parts fabrication. In order to create the exact same component every time, the industry has historically used molds. However, with additive manufacturing being more widely adopted, many aerospace manufacturers are incorporating 3D printing into their parts production processes.
Fortunately, 3D printers can manufacture composite materials. Carbon fiber is one example of a 3D printed composite. 3D printers can make products just as accurately as molds and have the added benefit of faster process times. Additionally, using 3D printers is less labor intensive since their digital setup requires only one engineer to program the desired part and material specification into the 3D printing technology.
In general, the use of composite materials is shaking up labor in the aerospace industry. An older generation of manufacturers and engineers are more accustomed to working with aluminum. With the shift to composites, aerospace industry workers will have to learn how to effectively repair and maintain aircraft made with these materials. That includes learning more advanced technologies, such as 3D printing.
Digital twin technology is another advanced technology the aerospace industry is implementing. Creating a digital twin of an aircraft design allows manufacturers to simulate different designs. Digital twins help engineers evaluate how different materials and composites will affect aircraft performance. Different composite materials have varying strengths and weaknesses, and digital twin technology helps manufacturers decide which composite will best meet their needs.
Aerospace Composite Manufacturing
The use of composite materials in the aerospace industry is helping to improve aircraft design and performance. Advanced manufacturing technologies like digital twin models enable manufacturers to identify which composite materials are best suited for aircraft design, while additive manufacturing offers a quick and consistent method to produce aircraft components. Not only do composite materials elevate air travel, they also help to make aircraft journeys more sustainable.
To learn more about composite manufacturing within the aerospace industry, attend one of the leading aerospace manufacturing conferences: AeroDef.