Composites Today

Magazine For Composites Professionals

Hexcel and Arkema develop first thermoplastic composites structure demonstrator

Hexcel and Arkema achieve a groundbreaking milestone in the field of aeronautical structures with the realization of a first thermoplastic composite structure demonstrator. Hexcel Corporation announced that this achievement stems from the strategic partnership between Hexcel and Arkema. The high-performance thermoplastic composite structure was designed and manufactured using HexPly® thermoplastic tapes. These aerospace-grade materials are developed from Arkema’s Kepstan® PEKK resin and Hexcel HexTow® AS7 and IM7 carbon fibers.

The demonstrator project was carried out as part of the collaborative project known as Highly Automatized Integrated Composites for Performing Adaptable Structures (HAICoPAS). The primary goal of HAICoPAS is to optimize the design and production process for unidirectional composite tapes made from high-performance thermoplastic resins and continuous carbon fibers. Additionally, the project aims to develop a more efficient tape placement technology and a novel continuous and dynamic in-situ welding (ISW) assembly system with real-time quality control. Ultimately, the objective is to produce composite parts that can replace metallic materials (such as steel, aluminum, and titanium) in aircraft structures, achieving both cost competitiveness and high production rates.

The work of the project partners has successfully overcome the technological barriers identified at the beginning of the project, including:

The development, implementation, and characterization of carbon/thermoplastic (C/PEKK) tapes.

The creation of an automated deposition process for consolidation outside of autoclaves.

The establishment of the ISW welding technology for assembly.

The definition of elementary parts intended to form the assembled components of the HAICoPAS demonstrator was carried out in close collaboration with an industrial advisory committee comprising Airbus, Safran, Daher, Hutchinson, and ATC.

This innovative demonstrator was successfully developed within the framework of the collaborative project “HAICoPAS”.