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Multifunctional Structures


The need to reduce cost is a driver for weight- and volume-constrained design on aircraft and satellites. In the last few years, lightweight composite materials have been increasingly used to reduce the structural weight of equipment components. However, concentrating solely on structural mass reduction does not lead to further reducing equipment mass, because the structure typically represents as little as 10 to 15% of the total mass. The envisaged solution is to design structural elements that can integrate multiple functions, known as multifunctional structures (MFS).

Project objectives

The project objective is the development of lightweight, fully integrated advanced equipment for aircraft and spacecraft (avionics electronic housings). Breadboards, based on the MFS technology, with a weight and volume reduction compared to their aluminium counterparts will be developed.

Description of the work

MULFUN is a specification-focused, innovation-type project, with a building block approach, according to which four breadboards will be designed and manufactured. The work plan is structured into three main phases.

The first phase begins with a general technology review of the MFS concept and the associated technology requirements (Work Package 1). After the assessment, two systems based on the two different approaches in thermal control (active and passive systems) will be designed, manufactured and tested in two technological panels (Work Packages 2 and 3).

The second phase deals with two different applications, which evaluate the technology developed in the first phase. The first design concept chosen is based on a planar array antenna for aircraft communications (Work Package 4). The second one will be a representative power electronic housing (Work Package 5), addressing the problems of assembly, EMC shielding and the integration of dummy electronics boards.

The third phase (Work Package 6) covers the exploitation aspects of the innovation produced.

Expected results

A planar array antenna and a composite-based housing that integrate thermal, electrical and structural functions will be developed. Through the proposed MFS solution, a 30% weight saving and a 50% volume reduction of the equipment is expected. The applicability of the MFS technology in the aerospace industry will also be assessed.