CAMX Panel: Composites Industry Innovators Lead Thermoplastics Adoption in New Aerospace Application

At CAMX 2022, Marcy Offner, director of marketing communications at Composites One and a founding member of the CAMX steering committee, moderated a panel that highlighted Re:Build Manufacturing, Elroy Air, and Victrex, to share their story about bringing new thermoplastic technology to the composites market. The industry innovators are leading the adoption of thermoplastic materials to produce next-gen Aerospace certified structures.

Advanced materials like thermoplastics are changing the composites manufacturing landscape. The panel brought to light the importance of industry partnerships that maximize the benefits of high-performance materials in developing market segments, bringing advantages to manufacturers while growing the overall composites industry helping to bring more manufacturing back to the U.S. at the same time. Collaborations like these will further grow the adoption of thermoplastic materials and the overall use of innovative composites materials.

Composites innovators spread their wings

Re:Build Manufacturing is a family of industrial businesses that applies cutting-edge technologies with a goal is to revitalize the U.S. manufacturing base over the coming decades, creating substantial opportunities for its employees and the surrounding communities. Because thermoplastics are easily automated from a layup perspective, they are ideal for high-cost, domestic labor environments.

Along with Re:Build Manufacturing, Victrex has considerable capabilities in thermoplastics composites, including compression molding and sheet molding, with interest in the Aerospace market.

Northern California Aerospace and defense startup Elroy Air designs and manufactures large cargo-carrying, unmanned vital aircraft to serve the needs of both defense and commercial logistics markets. Once the project was identified, Elroy Air became involved as the customer engaged in developing the technical thermoplastic solution.

Collaborating to meet demand in the urban air mobility (UAM) market

The collaboration of companies identified an ability for thermoplastic composites to drive substantial cost improvements in the urban air mobility (UAM) market, specifically by developing a rotor blade product that would demonstrate the value of thermoplastics capabilities.

They chose rotor blades as it related to servicing eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircrafts, one of the latest innovations in the Aerospace market. This segment required a substantially more cost-effective solution, given the value, demand, and adoption of eVTOL products. Because of the large number of blades on the vertical take-off aerial and cargo aircraft, production rate would be a key driver for thermoplastics to lend their capabilities, followed by material characteristics.

For applications that require high levels of repeatability and high production numbers, thermoplastic solutions offer inherent toughness, as well as automation and repeatability. The toughness, stiffness, and weight advantages of thermoplastics are ideal on an electric VTOL aircraft. Further, batch processes and high production rates make it a cost-effective, long-term solution.

Many industries look to Aerospace, a controlled governed industry, for innovation and techniques they can apply in their own businesses. The CAMX panel explained that lessons learned from this collaboration can be applied to the greater composites and advanced materials industry. The panel believes the adoption of thermoplastic polymers in applications like rotor blades will lead to industry disruption and the evolution of composite materials for other applications.

To hear more about sustainability, full life-cycle advantages, carbon efficiency, and global competitiveness in relation to thermoplastics technology innovation, watch the full CAMX panel discussion here.