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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Aeronautics projects > Getting advanced aircraft technologies off the ground systems
Graphic element Getting advanced aircraft technologies off the ground

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 the industry.

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.

TANGO: Improving major airframe components

The TANGO 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 fibre reinforcements.

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.

Detailed evaluation

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.

TANGO: Improving major airframe components
Detailed evaluation

Key data

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.


TANGO : Technology application to the near term business goals and objectives of the aerospace industry.

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