At this year’s Paris Airshow, Hexcel is promoting a range of composite technologies from carbon fiber, reinforcements and resin formulations to honeycomb with added functionality. These composite materials are used increasingly in civil aircraft, engines, helicopters, and space applications for weight-saving, enhanced performance, design optimization and improved fuel efficiency.
Hexcel has leading positions on new aircraft programs including the A350 XWB, Boeing 787, A320 NEO and B737MAX. Hexcel’s content on the A350 XWB is $5 million per aircraft and includes the carbon fiber prepreg for all of the composite primary structures. Hexcel was also awarded the contract by Safran to supply carbon fiber for all CFM LEAP-1 engine fan blades and containment cases.
To meet the growing demand for composites in the aerospace industry, Hexcel is investing in capacity expansions at facilities in Europe and the U.S.A. Last November, Hexcel celebrated the ground-breaking at its new Innovation Center in Duxford, U.K. and announced additional investments in capacity expansions for resin film, prepreg and honeycomb core at the site.
Last month, Hexcel launched its new carbon fiber plant in France. This $250 million investment in polymerization and carbonization lines will occupy a 37-acre site at the Osiris Chemicals Industry Platform in Roussillon in the Rhone-Alpes region.
The plant is part of Hexcel’s ongoing worldwide investment to create a diversified and robust supply chain to support aerospace customers’ growing demand for carbon fiber composites. Construction of the new plant will begin by September 2015, and it is expected to employ 120 people when fully operational in early 2018.
On May 21, Hexcel announced further investments totaling $22 million in capacity expansions at its carbon fiber weaving plant at Les Avenieres and an additional resin impregnation line in Dagneux, France. These additional investments are expected to create 100 more jobs by 2018. Hexcel currently employs close to 1,000 people in France.
Hexcel’s stand at Le Bourget is co-located with Groupe Gazechim Composites, an official distributor of Hexcel products, and their affiliate Composites Distribution. As more and more composite-intensive aircraft enter service around the world, there is an increasing requirement for airlines to carry out composite repair operations. Repairing aircraft quickly to minimize downtime means that small quantities of materials have to be readily available at all times.
Hexcel and Composites Distribution are partnering to provide solutions for MRO that allow aircraft repairs to be carried out quickly and conveniently. Composites Distribution is launching the new CAB concept (Composite AeroBox) from Sunaero. This efficient tool kit has different compartments for the storage of frozen prepregs, ancillary materials that are kept at ambient temperature and a hotbonder control panel, all contained within an easy to transport box that holds everything required for a quick repair of a composite part in the field.
Hexcel’s range of products developed for composite repair includes HexPly® M20 prepreg and HexForce® carbon fabrics. HexPly® M20 prepreg provides high temperature performance from a low energy cure cycle at 120-130°C (250-265°F) and can be processed in the field using vacuum bag and a heater blanket or hot bonder or in an autoclave. These materials are approved by the CACRC which sets global aerospace standards for composite repair operations.
In addition to Composites Distribution, Aim Composites and Heatcon are approved distributors of Hexcel’s composite repair materials.
Hexcel’s newly launched RTM resin, HexFlow® RTM230 ST, performs at high temperatures with superior toughness and has excellent high-rate impact resistance. The resin combines high in-plane and impact performance with good long term thermal stability, making it particularly suitable for engine components such as fan blades and cases, spacers and outlet guide vanes. HexFlow® RTM230 ST is also easy to process thanks to a 45-minute injection window. In addition, the system demonstrates outstanding resistance to aggressive fluids including commonly used solvents and aviation fuel.
Hexcel also is promoting HexPly® M92, the latest generation 125°C curing prepreg that combines superior hot wet performance up to 115°C, self-adhesion, high toughness, fire-resistance, low exotherm and a long out/tack life. On display will be a wing fuselage fairing door demonstrator manufactured by Embraer (shown right) using HexPly® M92 carbon fiber prepreg. This honeycomb sandwich structure requires no adhesive thanks to the self-adhesive properties of HexPly® M92.
HexPly® M91 is a new high toughness and impact resistant epoxy prepreg from Hexcel that is used by Rolls-Royce to manufacture CTi fan blades for new generation lightweight turbofan engines. Hexcel supplies HexPly® M91 as slit tape for the automated lay-up of the complex aerodynamic shape, with a constantly changing thickness across the blade length. The blade which is thinner and lighter than titanium fan blades is currently undergoing flight tests. Rolls-Royce has kindly loaned Hexcel a CTi fan blade to display at the air show.
Hexcel has also been supporting Rolls-Royce with materials for the low weight containment case that will house the new fan blades. The casing developments use Hexcel’s Intermediate modulus carbon fiber along with a Hexcel out of autoclave resin system. This extensive use of composite materials in the containment case design saves weight and enhances efficiency for next generation engines.
Since Hexcel launched HexTow® HM63 carbon fiber last year, this high modulus fiber has been quickly adopted by customers and is already in multi-lot qualification with major space and aerospace OEMs. HexTow® HM63 has the highest tensile strength of any high modulus fiber and provides outstanding translation of fiber properties in a composite, including superior interlaminar shear and compression shear strength.
On the Hexcel stand at Le Bourget, visitors will see an out-of-autoclave filament wound carbon composite structure manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space using Hexcel’s HexPly® M56 and HexTow® HM63 carbon fiber towpreg. The part was manufactured in a partnership framework to develop high performance towpreg for space applications.
Hexcel’s HiTape® advanced dry carbon fiber reinforcements are designed for the automated manufacture of preforms at very high deposition rates. The preforms are then infused with Hexcel’s RTM6 resin in a cost-efficient, out-of-autoclave process. Parts produced with HiTape® reinforcements and Hexcel’s HexFlow® infusion resins can be up to 30mm thick with 58% to 60% fiber volume content, resulting in mechanical properties that are as high as those achieved with primary structure prepregs.
Hexcel partnered with Stelia Aerospace (formerly Aerolia), Coriolis Composites and CompositeAdour to collaborate on the design, manufacture and testing of a primary aircraft structure – a self-stiffened fuselage demonstrator panel – using HiTape®. The resulting panel that will be displayed at Le Bourget demonstrates that HiTape® meets the aerospace performance standards for primary structures, including damage tolerance. This cost–and-cycle efficient technology meets the targets for next generation aircraft.
Hexcel was the first company to manufacture honeycomb on a commercial scale more than 60 years ago, and the company continues to innovate by adding functionality to core products. Hexcel has launched Hex-SHIELD™, a technology product providing high temperature resistance in aircraft engine nacelles. By inserting a thermally resistant material into honeycomb cells, Hexcel provides a core product with unique heat-shielding capabilities, that allows for the potential re-use of material after a fire at 1093°C/2000°F. The product builds on Hexcel’s long history of heat-resistant honeycombs including HexWeb® HRH-327, with temperature resistance up to 260°C/500°F. Hex-SHIELD™ combines the structural and formable benefits of honeycomb with thermal resistance performance and can be combined with various facing materials, making it tailorable to customer needs.
Advancements to Hexcel’s Acousti-Cap® broadband noise-reducing honeycomb have resulted in Multi-Degree of Freedom (MDOF) liners that bring significant improvements in acoustic absorption capabilities in aircraft engine nacelles. The acoustic treatment may be positioned at a consistent depth and resistance within the core, or it can be placed at a pattern of varying depths and/ or resistances, offering an acoustic liner that is precisely tuned to the engine operating conditions. Acousti-Cap® has been tested at NASA on a full engine test rig and meets all 16 design conditions without trade-offs.