The second day of CAMX 2022 kicked off with Good Day, CAMX!, a lively panel discussion that explored the collaboration between Re:Build Manufacturing, Victrex and Elroy Air to develop next-generation aerospace structures and lead the adoption of thermoplastic materials.
“With collaboration comes great things,” said Marcy Offner, Director of Marketing Communications at Composites One, who moderated the panel discussion. “With advanced materials like thermoplastics changing the manufacturing landscape, it is critical to create partnerships that showcase the benefits of high-performance materials in developing market segments, bringing advantages to the manufacturer while simultaneously growing our overall industry – right here at home.”
Re:Build Manufacturing and Victrex are partnering with Elroy Air to develop thermoplastic rotor blades for its Chaparral vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) autonomous aerial cargo platform.
“Our vehicle has a hybrid powertrain, and we want to make that as carbon efficient as we possibly can,” said Jay Wakenshaw, COO of Elroy Air. “Weight is always a premium in aerospace, but when you get to that level of electric propulsion … every last gram, every last ounce of weight on that air vehicle you want to shed, and thermoplastic is one of the key enablers to get that done.” Other properties, such as toughness and stiffness, are also desirable for the vehicle.
Scalability is also critical. With eight vertical lift propellors, the Chaparral will require a lot of blades when it goes into full production. Thermoplastic composites can meet the demand.
“Where you have applications that require high levels of repeatability and high production numbers, you are going to be better served using thermoplastic solutions,” said Jonathan Sourkes, Head of Sales of Aero SBU at Victrex, a supplier of PEEK and PAEK-based polymer solutions.
The materials are only one part of the equation in the partnership. The three companies are trying to change the traditional aerospace paradigm, said Miles Arnone, CEO of Re:Build Manufacturing, an industrial manufacturing group that integrates new technologies into conventional manufacturing businesses.
“If we want to keep evolving the industry and creating more efficiency – whether that’s for environmental purposes or cost purposes – we cannot have top-down decision-making about products and processes from the primes forced upon the supply chain,” he said. “We have to ideate on our own, develop processes and put them forward.”
That necessitates collaboration.
“It takes a leap of faith to push the innovation boundary. People tend to tack conservative and take that safe option,” said Wakenshaw. “Collaboration is really great because it’s not one company carrying all the risk and all the capital. That format can be applied not just to aerospace, but to all adjacent industries.”