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While Use of Composite Material Continues to Grow, It Does Not Dominate the Commercial Aerospace Industry
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Technically, composite material has been used in aviation throughout its history. Currently, high-tech composites are on the rise. Over the last decade, the commercial aerospace sector has had two carbon fiber composite aircraft introduced. The Boeing Company delivered the 787 Dreamliner, with Airbus quickly following suite with its new A350 XWB. While 50% of the former’s weight is made up of composites, the latter surpasses this with 53% composite content. More recently, jet engine manufacturers are not only turning to composites for extremely high-tech carbon fiber fan blades, but also incorporating ceramic matrix composite (CMC) parts in the hot sections that can withstand extremely high temperatures. The use of CMC parts enables weight reduction for engines and allows them to run at much higher temperatures, improving performance and efficiency.With the exception of the Airbus A220, which is innovative with composite wings and tail, the narrow-body market lags behind in terms of composite primary structure. The dominating Airbus A320 family and Boeing 737 MAX have turned to engineering technology on traditional metallic alloy primary structures for lightweighting. It remains to be seen whether manufactures continue incorporating more carbon fiber composites into these aircraft or take another vector (as the Airbus A380) incorporating glass reinforced aluminum for the fuselage.This study includes insights on fiberglass composites, metal laminated composites, carbon fiber composites, ceramic matrix composites, and carbon nanotube composites. It also analyzes the way these fit in to the commercial aerospace sector. Suppliers of raw materials, fasteners, chemicals, and tooling, producers, and aftermarket maintenance service providers can leverage the growth opportunities identified.The study profiles commercial aircraft in relationship to their material composition. Profiles include:• The year the aircraft entered into service• The percentage weight composed of composite• The material types of fuselage, wings, horizontal and vertical stabilizers, pylons/struts, control surfaces, radome/tail cones, and doors
Key Issues Addressed
Author: Timothy Kuder
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