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May 2006 edition

Researchers weave new future for aircraft design

Researchers are examining the feasibility of using 3D woven textile components in building the next generation of aircraft structures.

Partners in the woven textile project include Rolls-Royce, the Universities of Nottingham, Bristol and Ulster (UU), Dowty Propellors, Advanced Composites Group (ACG), Deep Sea Engineering and Sigmatex, a high tech fibres company.

The aerospace industry traditionally uses multiple layers of carbon fibre impregnated with resin that are heated under pressure to produce a cured component part.

But a Department of Trade and Industry funded project focuses on the practicality of weaving carbon fibre to the required 3D shape and thickness in one operation - then injecting it with resin to produce the composite part. The project is devising computer systems on which the woven materials can be created and tested in a virtual environment cutting manufacturing time and costs.

Glynnis Owens, the project manager at Rolls Royce, said the project could move to a production phase in five to eight years but was currently focused on producing a viable model.

Dr Justin Quinn, director of UU’s Engineering Composites Centre said: “We are one of a very small number of people in the UK who can weave these complex woven architectures on traditional weaving machinery.”

Among the types of components that cold be created from 3D woven carbon are wing ribs, stringers, structural stiffeners for multi-body components and engine components.

Dr Quinn said: “Composites made....

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