With formatting services for thermoplastic composite aircraft parts, terms such as slitting, chopping and winding are no longer sufficient to categorize capabilities. Instead, think in terms of invention and innovation that highly skilled, custom trainers can deliver from the early stages of a component design process.
Here are six things to know about the growing role of Custom Trainers as an expert partner whose skills allow them to produce a custom solution for next-generation aircraft.
1. Custom formatting / formatting
Conventional material formatting is the process of cutting or chopping, then packaging a thermoplastic or other composite to a manufacturer’s specifications for subsequent lamination, molding and heating or compression into a finished part. Slit ribbons are wrapped or wound on spools; chopped materials are packed in containers. In addition to dedicated formatting activities, some aircraft and component manufacturers and material suppliers perform conventional formatting.
While the conventional formatting process seems relatively straightforward, it involves high-level engineering skills, a solid understanding of material characteristics, extreme quality control, and precision equipment capable of slitting or chopping materials up to the point. to 1/8 “in width with tolerances of 0.005” or less. .
Custom formatting is a whole different matter, and it’s a capability that conventional manufacturers and converters don’t have.
Custom trainers combine traditional solutions with material formats designed for a product or process. This is an optimization approach that can convert materials in unique ways and often involves producing different output materials than anything currently available. Custom trainers can also help activate production methods never used before to build a part. Many aerospace manufacturers value their partnerships with custom trainers because they can help them implement new, innovative methods that provide competitive advantages.
Custom trainers have extensive experience working side-by-side with aerospace engineering staff. This, along with their in-depth knowledge of materials and processes, as well as research and development resources, make them ideal partners for aerospace manufacturers.
They can develop new formatting processes designed from the ground up to meet new challenges or challenges for a manufacturer. They can help an engineer realize a big dream about what aircraft manufacturing should be like in the future, all in a faster, more cost-effective and efficient manner, while saving manufacturers development time.
Custom trainers are experienced with the Technology Readiness Level (TRL), which is commonly used for aerospace technology developments. They can coordinate development with a manufacturer for a complete and consistent methodology and for planning that makes it easier to bring new technology to market.
3. Cross-functional collaboration
Change is a constant in the aerospace industry and cross-functional collaboration is the key to successful implementation of new technologies. One example is Boeing’s collaboration in the development of its 777X wing, a process different from current wing manufacturing methods. Keeping up with the pace of these developments requires the collaboration of suppliers, from the concept of a new component to the final hardware release. Suppliers should be used to working over long development periods and mastering a structured development methodology to achieve innovations from R&D to production.
Ideally, custom trainers will work in unison with multiple parties involved in the production of a new component – material suppliers, equipment and component manufacturers, and design and manufacturing engineers. When it comes to selecting a custom trainer, he does it early on. If the personalized trainer is integrated into the process at a time when the manufacturer has already specified and ordered their production equipment, the window for optimizing the entire process and realizing benefits such as additional cost reductions and throughput improvements will already be passed.
4. At the cutting edge of technology
Tailor-made trainers are at the forefront of innovation and often acquire new levels of expertise through their involvement in academics, associations and joint projects with research centers.
Web Industries Inc. is a member of the Thermoplastics Composites Research Center (TPRC) in the Netherlands, a consortium of industrial and academic members active in the thermoplastics industry. Web Industries recently participated in a joint experiment with TPRC and group members to characterize the relationship between thermoplastic flake size, processing conditions and performance.
The part in issue was an access door panel made from recycled carbon / thermoplastic (C / PPS) processing waste. The panel was designed and built by TPRC and Fokker Aerostructures; the recycled material was supplied by TenCate and cut into flakes using technology developed by Web Industries.
According to documents provided by TPRC, the manufactured panel “exhibits a number of interesting design features. These include molded reinforcing ribs, thickness variations and molded holes with bosses. The chopped C / PPS semi-preg allows increased design freedom, resulting in a lightweight component with a high degree of functional integration.
A post-experience commentary from TPRC states, “The inherent recyclability of thermoplastic composites opens up new avenues for smart green design.”
Involvement with research organizations such as TPRC in experiments like this gives personalized trainers insight into cutting-edge design, materials and manufacturing that go beyond conventional knowledge.
5. Due diligence
What is a 10% improvement in throughput or a six-month reduction in qualification time worth for an aerospace component manufacturer?
This is a rhetorical question, as the answer will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Nonetheless, this leads to a critical point: Custom formatting can and should lead to significant reductions in costs, time, and materials. To achieve this, the personalized trainer must be flexible, as he will have to adapt, improvise and follow the often winding path from product development to its final composition. Along this path, opportunities will emerge capable of paying huge dividends in terms of shortened development time, reduced costs and improved quality and efficiency.
Therefore, flexibility is a key skill that manufacturers should assess when analyzing the Custom Formatted Materials market.
The same goes for trust and risk management. Transparency is always a factor in joint ventures. A personalized trainer will need the experience and integrity to communicate directly about the challenges, advantages and disadvantages of the development path of a project. All partners must comply with their commitments. It is essential for a personalized trainer to consistently deliver on their promise for years, if not decades.
6. Internal formatting
Bringing a conventional formatting function in-house, or deciding to keep it in-house, has definite advantages and disadvantages. One of the generally accepted advantages of vertical integration is the proximity of the process to the production center of the manufacturer or material supplier.
In return, there are the resources that a manufacturer or material supplier must apply to the process. Ultimately, this calls for a risk assessment: Can your business do a job that is not its core competency better and more efficiently than a business whose one business is dedicated to that one task? Is he ready to sacrifice manufacturing and warehousing space, to step up the production scale, to purchase quantities of materials, to set up laboratories for research and development, to build refrigerated areas? and clean rooms, while mastering a process that requires great precision and years of accumulated knowledge to be successful?
And what about custom formatting? Here, the risk assessment equations would involve decades of experience, engineering skills perfectly suited to a specific discipline, and a proven track record in delivering innovative formatting solutions to new and sometimes revolutionary product developments that only one personalized trainer might reasonably be able to provide.
One final note: thermoplastics are increasingly accepted for a wider variety of aerospace parts, including large components such as wing boxes, spars, wing liners, fuselage structures, and panels. As components grow larger and thermoplastics are used more and more in industry, the value of a serious risk assessment for in-house formatting will increase exponentially.
Web Industries Inc.