Looking toward the future of aircraft at Airbus, including a zero-emission option, Gradert sees several opportunities for composites, including:

  • Raw materials – many composites rely on petroleum-based materials for creation. Shifting to more sustainable bio sources could help produce a negative footprint if CO2 were to be captured during production
  • Curing – lower temperatures and shorter curing cycles could offer benefits like higher production rates and can contribute to better energy usage
  • Buy to fly ratio – ratio of weight of raw material purchased vs. weight of the material in the finished product. Composites have played a part in decreasing this number over the past decade, but greater optimization is achievable
  • Sustainable solutions – composite manufacturers are encouraged to optimize processes and reduce waste wherever possible. This includes developing more environmentally sustainable solutions, including limiting single use plastics
  • Recycling and reusing composite materials – transforming high value material from the composite production process into new materials for different parts. Extending reuse/recycling approach to secondary structures is necessary to have the greatest impact

With so many aspects at play to achieving their goal by 2035, Airbus is ready to get to work and is looking to the composites industry for solutions and partnerships. “Composites have demonstrated a very good in-service experience,” Gradert said. “It’s a nice example of good technology introduction and offering real benefit to our customers.”