With ICME, aerospace manufacturers see the significant benefits of agility within frameworks that encompass entire organizations, including their customers and stakeholders. A focus on the flow of data to link these frameworks provides both actionable information and performance metrics across silos that can be applied, in theory, at any level in the organization. With their growing complexity, these legacy companies also recognize the critical role of the small business “hard tech” startup often five to 15 years in advance of their impact. This is especially true for material providers, where heavy R&D is often subsidized by government investment in recognition of its pivotal value later.
Composites are the ideal material systems to both drive and add value to modeling, analytics or digital twin approaches where the complexity in components, additives and their morphology give rise to innumerable performance differences not only in the choice of constituents, but the manufacturing process as well. This value is especially true when computation can significantly reduce the time between customer requirements and FAA certification.
The crossroads of emerging technologies with United States modernization priorities have been in hypersonics, the off-planet economy (space) and cyber security. The latter provides ample challenges for the entire aerospace supply chain, not the least being the need to protect information. Beginning Nov. 30, 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) introduced a self-assessment methodology requiring the DOD supply chain to quantify and report their current cybersecurity compliance. On the innovation side, government agencies continue to promote collaboration between startup technology developers and Tier 1 aerospace companies. One example is the Air Force’s AFWERX program, which facilitates connections across industry, academia and the military.
Critical to these emerging technologies are advancements in materials. The need for materials that survive in the harshest of environments between Mach 5 and Mach 20 in space have led to an increase in additively manufactured ceramic matrix composites research and investment. To gain a stronger foothold in aerospace, the composites industry can use lessons learned in polymeric and metal matrix composites to inform model-driven design of ceramic matrix composites using ICME workflows. Additionally, converting expert knowledge into basic two-by-two orthogonal designs of experiment that compare the legacy material within the same experiment will build confidence around using new composite materials and manufacturing approaches.
While baseline metrics have historically included high strength-to-weight ratios, corrosion and chemical resistance, the new off-planet space economy calls for survivability in extreme hot and cold temperatures. Volunteering to contribute to standard development, such as the work being done by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Standards Steering Committee (SSC), will help to normalize testing and other activities among aerospace stakeholders.