STUNNING Challenge Delivers of One of many World’s Largest Thermoplastic Aerostructures
Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash
February 13, 2023
The Clean Sky 2 Thermoplastic Fuselage Demonstrator (MFFD) lower half was delivered, one of the largest thermoplastic assemblies in the world.
With the goal of demonstrating high-rate production while reducing fuselage weight by 10% and recurring costs for the fuselage by 20%, the Multi-Functional Fuselage Demonstrator (MFFD) project led by Airbus, with teams from GKN Fokker, NLR – Netherlands Aerospace Centre, Delft University of Technology, and SAM|XL, manufactured one of the world’s largest thermoplastic components – an 8-meter by 4-meter structure that will serve as the lower half of the fuselage demonstrator. The aerostructure, delivered under the Clean Sky 2 STUNNING project, is built of more than 400 thermoplastic fiber-reinforced parts.
GKN Fokker assembled STUNNING, consisting of a skin module built using automated fiber placement (AFP) and continuous compression molding with frame sub-assemblies, and a floor grid module made of floor beam subassemblies also built using AFP and equipped with various systems.
Using a 10-meter x 11-meter x 4-meter ultrasonic welding robot and scaling-up dustless welding technology from the lab at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, the demonstrator was assembled in SAM|XL at the TU Delft Campus. The SAM|XL team plans to expand this robotic welding assembly technology.
The upper half of the fuselage, built by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Structures and Design in Augsburg, will be joined with the lower half at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM) in Stade.
Arnt Offringa, director Global Technology Center NL of GKN Aerospace said, “This breakthrough project, which began in 2017, has significantly advanced our understanding and accelerated the development of thermoplastic technologies for large and complex aircraft parts. It has showcased the potential for industrial-scale application of robotic welding in the assembly of thermoplastic aerostructures. The partnership approach to STUNNING has also been a great success, showing how much progress can be made when working together. Collaboration projects such as this will be vital as we continue to push the boundaries of technology in order to meet our sustainability targets.”