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Development and Innovation for Advanced ManufacturIng of Thermoplastics


Today, high performance thermoplastic composite parts are mainly used in aeronautical structures. Compared to thermoset resin systems, they have many advantages: impact behaviour, fire resistance, low moisture absorption and welding capabilities. Despite this, thermoplastics are generally restricted to simple geometry parts and limited dimensions as the material and global production costs remain generally high.

Project objectives

The main innovations resulting from this 36-month project will relate to the following objectives:

  • The development of low-cost, high-performance thermoplastic composites applicable to aeronautical structural components based on:
    • blending of the thermoplastic structural matrix, the newly developed polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) structural resin, and new multi-axial thermoplastic fabrics.
  • The development of new forming-consolidation processes for TP skins and substructures, among them:
    • automated lay-up and in situ consolidation processes for double curvature part applications, continuous and roll forming techniques, low-pressure injection process.
  • The development of new welding processes based on:
    • laser technologies, and in situ welding processes.
  • The creation of a cost optimisation tool, which will assess the developments of innovative TP materials and processes.
From EADS/CCR: Automatic TP lay up on a double curvature part
From EADS/CCR: Automatic TP lay up on a double curvature part

Description of the work

To achieve the general objectives of the programme, the work is divided into six technical Work Packages.


After the elaboration of specifications for this new structural TP material, with a polyether ether ketone (PEEK) tape reference, the focus will be on the development of a ternary TP blend and its associated prepregs (tape and fabrics). The forming capabilities and mechanical properties of new TP multi-axial fabrics will be evaluated. Polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) behaviour in the melt state will be analysed for optimising the injection process. Processing routes for PEKK tapes will be compared.

Forming processes for Skin

A new automated lay-up technique associated with vacuum consolidation will be developed, and the in situ consolidation (ISC) process will be enhanced for double curvature part applications. Benchmarking tests will be supplied for comparison of different ISC processes. A specific diaphragm technique will be associated with the development of an IR heating model.

Forming processes for Substructure

A specific TP resin tranfer moulding process will be developed. A thermoset roll-forming machine will be upgraded for TP applications and a continuous forming technique will be employed for the manufacturing of contoured profiles.

Welding processes

Laser technologies will be investigated, either for the TP composite assembly, or for surface preparation before welding. An in situ welding technique will be developed, to be coupled to the ISC process.


A reduced fuselage panel will be designed, and sized for validation of the automated lay up technology. Part of a TP fuselage frame will be designed for validation of the RTM process. Composite TP wing ribs will be manufactured with laser welded roll formed stiffeners. A TP landing gear door will be manufactured using in situ consolidation and welding processes.

Cost effective analysis:

Finally, the real impact on cost reduction will be evaluated with a specific analytical tool

Expected results

At the end of the project, it is hoped to obtain the following for application to aeronautics:

  • a low-cost, high-performance TP material (a minimum of 20% cheaper compared to a reference material)
  • available techniques for double curvature application (for example, an aircraft nose or fuselage)
  • low-cost techniques for the manufacture of TP substructures to be welded to skins
  • new techniques for welding high performance TP composites
  • a management tool for cost-effective evaluation of new technologies, compared to reference cases.