Aerospace material innovations take flight

How composite materials are driving the need for new manufacturing and packaging solutions.

In aerospace, one material innovation can save money, reduce waste and even help improve safety. However, it also creates new manufacturing and packaging considerations. Case in point: carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP).

CFRP demand has increased across industries over the last 10 years, and experts expect this trend will continue. In fact, the Research and Markets “Global Carbon Fiber-Reinforced Plastic Market 2016-2020” report forecasts that global CFRP usage will grow more than 12% by 2020.1

A specialized material that requires specialized solutions
Jarrad Krueger, an aerospace packaging specialist and certified LEAN advisor at Veritiv, explains that although CFRP provides many benefits, it also presents tradeoffs. “Compared to a metallic part, a CFRP component is often much more delicate and may cost 10-20 times more,” says Krueger.

Because of its unique material properties and high cost to manufacture and repair, Krueger recommends CFRP manufacturers leverage several solutions to avoid damage, minimize costs and keep employees and end users safe.

Cleanroom-quality wiping materials and personal protective equipment (PPE)
Protecting employees from harm is always a top priority in manufacturing. When it comes to making CFRP, surface protection is equally important because the slightest imperfection can render a part unusable or lead to expensive re-work. That is why cleanrooms and PPE (e.g., gloves, smocks, goggles, etc.) are so vital for CFRP manufacturers.

Specialized tapes, films and fabrics
CFRP components are more complicated to produce than traditional metallic structures because they require additive manufacturing, a complex layering process similar to 3D printing. To prevent damage, reduce defects and ensure the layers maintain their structural integrity, employees must use special consumables, including airtight bags, Flashbreaker® and Teflon™ tapes, release liners and more, while manufacturing in a cleanroom environment.

The CFRP advantage? Saving weight from the structure helps reduce lifetime operating costs.

Protective packaging
Protective packaging is a must for CFRP components because of their fragility. However, the good news is that CFRP parts actually require less packaging overall because they weigh less.

“For example, instead of overpacking or using heavy boxes and protective foams, CFRP
manufacturers can increase efficiency by using a fiber board, molded fiber or corrugated packaging in conjunction with surface protection,” says Krueger. “Plus, much of the packaging can be returned and reused, so there are sustainability benefits
as well.”

An experienced partner makes all the difference
After working with aerospace manufacturers around the world, Krueger reports that
one of the most effective ways to save time and money is to work with an experienced partner who offers custom product and packaging solutions.

“Many aerospace companies are experts in composite manufacturing, but they don’t have the same expertise in packaging these expensive, delicate parts,” Krueger says. “Look for a partner with material knowledge, equipment and supplier relationships to get innovation down to the factory floor and develop more effective solutions.”

As Krueger points out, material innovations such as CFRP are sparking new conversations among manufacturers, but in some ways, these challenges are nothing
new to the aerospace industry. After all, the goal is always greater than simply getting people or goods from point A to point B. It’s about ensuring the entire journey is optimized for safety and efficiency.

For more information about Veritiv’s aerospace packaging capabilities, visit our Markets and Expertise page.

Source:
1 TechNavio. (2016). Global Carbon Fiber–Reinforced Plastic Market 2016–2020. doi: 3987869