Over the last decade, a number
of significant improvements in aircraft structure have been achieved through
the use of new design principles, advanced materials and improved manufacturing
processes. While some of these new technologies have been applied by European
manufacturers in the production of small structural components, many now
believe the time has come to apply them in the production of much larger,
primary aircraft structures. Such changes could mean a significant cut
in manufacturing costs and, ultimately, reduced fuel consumption and pollution.
This would also represent a major step forward in terms of the way we
work together across Europe.
Today's aerospace industry is operating under a number
of very clear and vital constraints. While tough international competition
requires the rapid, low-cost production of reliable, efficient and easy-to-maintain
aircraft, ongoing growth in air transport calls for the development of
new aircraft which can meet demanding operating criteria in terms of loads
and range. At the same time, society has imposed and will continue to
impose increasingly stringent environmental and safety requirements on
Two very fundamental objectives in attempting to answer
these needs are the improvement of structural efficiency and the reduction
of manufacturing costs. Reductions in airframe weight, for example, result
in lower fuel consumption and decreased environmental impact, while the
use of cheaper or more efficient materials and designs and improved manufacturing
processes allows for the lowering of aircraft purchase prices. Of course,
truly significant improvements will only be achieved if and when new technologies
are validated and integrated into the design and manufacturing processes
of key airframe manufacturers and their suppliers.
major airframe components
project represents an integrated approach to the validation of new
large-scale structural technologies. More than 30 members of the
European aeronautics industry, based in 12 countries, are working
together in the construction of major airframe structural components,
including composite lateral and centre wing boxes and fuselage sections,
metal composite joints and advanced metallic fuselage sections.
Presenting the project at the Aeronautics
Days 2001 conference in Hamburg last January, TANGO co-ordinator
Marc Vincendon of Airbus
Industrie spoke about the new goals being set for improving
aircraft production and operating efficiency. Manufacturers are
now looking for 20% reductions in both weight and cost, relative
to current manufacturing processes and state-of-the-art design.
To achieve these ambitious targets, TANGO is
developing new design and testing methodologies, including multi-disciplinary
optimisation, advanced simulation techniques and design for assembly.
In addition, design-oriented and other new materials are being used,
including aluminium-lithium alloys, aluminium-magnesium-scandium
alloys, fibre-metal laminates (e.g. Glareâ) and new carbon
Innovative manufacturing and assembly
processes include the use of friction stir and laser beam welding
of aluminium alloys, resin transfer moulding, resin film infusion,
automated lay-up of composites and adhesive bonding. Finally, best
practice management techniques, including data exchange, are being
applied throughout the supply chain in a manner representative of
the future design and manufacturing process for European aircraft.
According to Vincendon,
the early stages of the project will consist of structural performance
definition and design work together with a detailed evaluation of
each of the selected technologies. Once this phase has been completed,
a subset of technologies will be selected for use in the construction
of each of the structures. Only those technologies that meet the
required specifications in terms of cost, weight and environmental
impact will be utilised in the manufacture of the structures. Airframe
manufacturers and members of their supply chains will then build
the necessary sub-assemblies and components. The data generated
during subsequent assembly and testing will be fed back into the
design and engineering process. The resulting industrially proven
technologies will comprise the main output of the project.
Partners hope that a rapid uptake and application
of such technologies will allow European manufacturers to capture
the lion's share of a potential €1.2 trillion market over the
next 20 years, securing the industry and protecting the expanding
and highly skilled workforce it employs.
Among the main priorities for the Growth Programme's
key action in New
Perspectives in Aeronautics are the reduction of fuel consumption
and aircraft production costs through the use of new manufacturing
processes and advanced materials.
: Technology application to the near term business goals and objectives
of the aerospace industry.