Weight saving project takes flight

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Aluminium Matrix Composites (AMC) manufacturer Alvant is working towards step change in achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

It is showing the aerospace industry what is possible through investing in sustainable materials for new, more fuel-efficient aircraft.

The Basingstoke-based company and global-leading Safran Landing Systems have partnered on a two-year, £28 million, aerospace project titled ‘Large Landing Gear of the Future’.

Alvant’s contribution to the project is the design, manufacture and testing of an AMC brake rod, targeting a 30% weight reduction over an equivalent titanium component whilst maintaining the same strength as steel.

Alvant is aiming to deliver or slightly exceed this weight saving at this stage of the project, scheduled for completion next year, with the current CAD model suggesting a 40% weight save can be achieved over the original titanium part.

Besides weight reduction, the aim of the project is to cut fuel burn and noise as part of the industry’s drive to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions, while improving reliability and lowering ownership costs. What is also of major significance here for Alvant is that the project’s success will enable the validation of AMCs in areas where safety and reliability are essential. But what are AMCs?

AMCs are an advanced class of composite materials in which the aluminium is reinforced with a secondary high-performance material. AMCs pose huge market potential across the industry with their specific properties such as low density, excellent fatigue performance, high wear, corrosion resistance and cost efficiency.

Alvant believes AMCs can have superior strength compared to steel at less than half the weight, meaning highly loaded components made from traditional metals, such as steel, titanium and aluminium can be replaced by lightweight, low inertia parts without any increase in package size.

AMCs also offer multiple advantages over polymer fibre reinforced materials, such as carbon composites, including higher transverse strength and stiffness, a higher thermal operating range, superior damage tolerance and more opportunity to recycle.

Richard Thompson, commercial director at Alvant explains: “Currently, landing gear systems are stronger and heavier than necessary due to an outstanding safety record which has resulted in proven techniques being perpetuated. However, they account for approximately three per cent of aircraft weight, with a knock-on effect on fuel consumption. Along with Safran, we believe it is possible to reduce this without diminishing the gear’s capabilities or safety.”

Safran set out the requirements of the project and have defined it in such a way that it solves some of their upcoming technological challenges, to help them remain competitive in the landing gear aerospace market and showcase innovative technologies for the industry’s future.

Continues Thompson: “Alvant’s supply of components for fatigue and stress testing to an aerospace tier one suppliers signifies a major step forward in proving the reliability and airworthiness of our unique materials.”