TAPAS partnership with Airbus continued
Airbus, Airborne, Fokker, TenCate and the other partners in the Dutch aerospace industry have signed the contract for the second Thermoplastic Affordable Primary Aircraft Structure (TAPAS2) project on January 21st, 2014. This project further builds on the first TAPAS project, and is a highly successful partnership for project-based innovation. The TAPAS consortium consists of companies and knowledge institutes in the Dutch aerospace industry working together with Airbus on the development of thermoplastic composite applications in aircraft fuselages, wings and tail sections. The fruitful partnership between Airbus and the Dutch consortium started in 2009 and, following this extension, will run until the end of 2017.
Airborne Technology Centre
Airborne’s contribution to this project is related to the development of automated processes in the thermoplastic manufacturing route of aircraft structures. One of the potential processes is the continuous manufacture of stiffener preforms, both for butt-jointed blade stiffeners and omega stiffeners. ATC’s role in the TAPAS2 project is to further develop the automated placement technology for manufacturing skin-type products, that was pioneered in the first TAPAS project. In addition on this, new technologies within the TAPAS2 project are considered such as fibre steering and automated pick and drape processes, all aimed at enabling an optimised tail section, wing and fuselage design with a focus on affordability. ATC has its own robot development cell with in-house designed automation tools to facilitate this research.
Thermoplastic composites are advanced materials offering typical weight savings of 15% compared with traditional aircraft materials, together with benefits that include more efficient processing, lower costs of structural components and a high level of fire safety. These composites have high strength, are lightweight and contribute to the drive towards sustainable aviation, because the use of these materials allow reductions in aircraft weight to be achieved when compared to traditional metal solutions. As a result fuel consumption is reduced, the range of the aircraft is increased and higher payloads are possible. The target is to further increase the proportion of thermoplastic composites in current aircraft as well as in the new generation aircraft. Under the TAPAS2 agreement the goal is set to demonstrate feasibility of these type of structures, therefore a demonstrator tail section made entirely of thermoplastic composite material will be developed, as well as a composite engine pylon. A large scale thermoplastic fuselage panel was produced and presented as demonstrator as part of the first TAPAS project.
Leading position worldwide
The Dutch aerospace industry holds a leading position worldwide in lightweight material applications. This position is due partly to the excellent national knowledge infrastructure in the aerospace industry, materials and processes. Partnership with customers, suppliers, universities and knowledge institutes in innovation platforms, supported by active government policy, shows how this structured approach is taking new technology developments to the next level.