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Victrex Launches Composites Designed for Aerospace

WEST CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa.— Victrex recently announced that it is launching composites for the aerospace industry in the form of unidirectional (UD) tape and laminate panels. Introduced under the brand VICTREX® AE250 composites, the new product group enables the production of continuously-reinforced components that can perform under load, the company said in a press release. Such components include brackets, clips, clamps, and housings used throughout the aircraft in primary and secondary structures. The development and launch builds on the hybrid molding technology released by the company in 2014.

A compelling advantage of using a PAEK (polyaryletherketone) -based composite, according to Victrex, is faster manufacturing as a result of smarter designs, contributing to cost savings, and improved installation times. Victrex AE250 composites have also shown weight savings of up to 60% under certain circumstances when compared to metals such as aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium, Victrex reported. That weight reduction translates directly into significant gains in fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions. The composites have also shown an up to five times higher specific strength compared to those of metals.

Key features of the Victrex AE250 composites are also said to include outstanding high-temperature performance and thermal stability, a wide-ranging chemical resistance to aerospace fluids and gases, and excellent resistance to hydrolysis and corrosion.

“Victrex sees this as another excellent opportunity to support our customers by being a total solutions provider,” noted Tim Herr, aerospace director at Victrex, in a press release. “Our innovative PAEK composites, paired with the revolutionary hybrid molding technology, bridge the gap between composites and injection molding. It enables the manufacture of complex composite parts which have not been possible until now.”

With Victrex AE250 composites being used as inserts in existing injection molding equipment, the hybrid molding process enables the overmolding of a continuously-reinforced thermoplastic composite with Victrex PEEK injection molding polymers. The hybrid molding technology is said to offer major advantages that include improved cycle times, lower energy requirements, and the elimination of scrap and secondary operations. These factors help to reduce total system cost, a high priority in the industry's effort to move planes off the assembly line faster and more cost-effectively. Analysts believe that more than 35,000 new aircraft will be needed over the next 20 years in order to replace aging fleets and to meet civilian flight demands.

“One key to achieving this is the replacement of metals and thermosets with next-generation thermoplastic solutions,” explained Tim Herr. “When Victrex collaborates with our customers from concept to final part, they are able to achieve an unmatched combination of cost reductions, weight savings, design freedom, strength, and production speed for next-generation thermoplastic components. All of these are becoming increasingly valuable to both the air-framers and tier suppliers alike."

Compared to thermoset solutions, PAEK composites can be processed faster, using out-of-autoclave methods, and are 100 percent recyclable. They have better damage tolerance than thermosets and offer greater chemical resistance, fatigue performance, and FST (flame/smoke/toxicity) properties, while matching the strength and stiffness of thermosets, Victrex reported. In comparison to metals, their corrosion resistance, processing speed, and thermal insulation are improved, while impact resistance and damage tolerance will be similar, the company said.
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