High-performance composite uses Ultem and carbon fibre

Paul Boughton

Sabic Innovative Plastics has created a high-performance compound based on aerospace carbon fibre technology and Ultem polyetherimide (PEI) resin to replace heavier airline-grade die-cast and machined aluminium for aircraft interiors components, offering weight savings of up to 50 per cent. Vaupell, a global contract manufacturer of custom injection-moulded components and assemblies, is working with Sabic Innovative Plastics to validate the new Ultem resin materials in aircraft seating components
Vaupell's tray table arms are concept parts that demonstrate the 50 per cent weight savings and up to 40 per cent improved strength of carbon-fibbers-filled Ultem resin.
Cathleen Hess, global product director, Sabic Innovative Plastics, comments: "Our new carbon-fibre-filled Ultem resin family is a great example of our strategy to further expand our premier technologies to solve our aircraft customers' toughest challenges while giving them tremendous opportunities to grow their businesses. Relationships with industry leaders such as Vaupell ensure that these materials meet the specific requirements of our customers and deliver measurable value. We are taking another technological leap forward with these innovative new carbon-fibre-filled Ultem resins, to help global OEMs usher in a new era of cost-effective and lighter weight aircraft design."
Mike Hamm, vice president of sales at Vaupell adds: "Working closely with Sabic Innovative Plastics, we immediately saw the potential of carbon-fibre-filled Ultem resin to replace aluminium in interior aircraft applications. It is an outstanding product that delivers top performance and compliance with ever-tightening global standards for critical interior applications. Carbon-fibre-filled Ultem resin is a true industry game-changing material that not only slashes part weight for greater fuel savings, but also offers a balance of other high-performance properties to meet aircraft industry demand for the best materials on the market for next-generation planes."
Building upon Ultem resin's proven capabilities for aircraft interiors, carbon-fibre-filled Ultem resin complies with FAA flammability FAR 25.85, smoke density and heat release requirements for OSU 65/65. In addition to tray table arms, potential applications for the new carbon-fibre-filled Ultem grades include armrests, footrests and galley items such as coffee maker chassis. Vaupell will conduct further load capability testing and fatigue testing later in 2010.
Sabic Innovative Plastics has developed a family of carbon-fibre-filled Ultem resin technologies with varying fibre content to address specific demands for top-end performance properties. This initiative is the result of close collaboration between the company's LNP specialty compound and Ultem resin technology teams to deliver materials that help airlines meet the critical need to reduce weight, with the added bonus of up to 40 per cent improved strength performance compared with aluminium.
In addition to reducing the weight of aluminum, carbon-fibre-filled Ultem resin grades avoid the need for machining and other secondary processes, thereby streamlining production and driving down total system costs. They also enable part consolidation to reduce points of failure and expand design freedom. In processing, these resins are said to provide double the flow, which accelerates productivity and enables thin-walled moulded parts to be manufactured for even greater weight savings.
Injection moulding is just one of the processing choices for these new Ultem resins; they are also suitable for extrusion into panels for galley storage and similar applications. Components can be powder coated, painted or plated.
For more information, visit www.sabic-ip.com

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