By Muhammad Zaid Harith Ramlan, Nadlene Razali & Mohd Hanafee Zin
UTeM has signed MoA with Aerospace Malaysia Innovation Centre (AMIC) on the development of thermoplastic material for the aerospace industry. This is a milestone in the thermoplastic research in UTeM to significantly contribute to the aerospace industry in Malaysia. The research is spearheaded by Dr. Nadlene Razali from Faculty of Mechanical Engineering (FKM) and focuses on the material characterization of Polyphenylene sulphide (PPS) plastic for aerospace applications.
Engineering material plays a massive role in improving the aerospace industry. The material influences the final weight of the flying aircraft; thus it is crucial to select the most suitable material with lightweight characteristics during the design stage while not compromising other essential mechanical properties. Aircraft were created using wood frames with fabric surfaces in the early century. The early designs were later replaced by aircraft made from metal.
Currently, modern aircraft are manufactured from a wide range of materials, including various plastics. Engineers anticipate that greater aircraft performance can be yield using engineering plastics. More research in the development of innovative polymers is required to turn this possibility into reality.
Fifty years ago, aluminum dominated the aerospace industry. It was lightweight, cheap, and possesses other desirable mechanical characteristics, where 70% of an aircraft was once made from aluminum. Other new materials such as composites and alloys were also used, including titanium, graphite, and fiberglass, but only in a very small ratio compared to aluminum. Readily available, aluminum was used everywhere from the fuselage to main engine components.
As years go by, a typical jet built today is as little as 20% pure aluminum. Most of the non-critical structural materials – paneling and aesthetic interiors – now consist of even lighter-weight carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs) and honeycomb materials. Meanwhile, for engine parts and critical components, there is a simultaneous push for lower weight and higher temperature resistance for better fuel efficiency, bringing new requirements into the aerospace material.
On 29th October 2020, Boeing has announced that they approved Stratasys Ltd.’s usage of Antero 800NA as 3D printing. Antero 800NA is a PEKK-based polymer developed specifically for production-grade Stratasys FDM 3D printers. Boeing has released specification BMS8-444 and added the 800NA material to the Qualified Products List (QPL) after an extensive evaluation of the material’s performance.
It is the first material from Stratasys qualified by Boeing for use in applications with elevated chemical resistance or fatigue requirements. Stratasys Aerospace Vice President Scott Sevcik said “Boeing has recognized the tremendous utility of Antero to meet applications that could not have been 3D-printed before. Additive manufacturing has tremendous benefits for simplifying aerospace supply chains both in original equipment and MRO, but robust materials for meeting challenging flight requirements have been needed.” The qualification means the high-temperature material can now be used on flight parts for Boeing planes. The future for high-performance thermoplastic in aerospace is promising. This is proven by the recent growth in the number of applications in both structural and non- structural assemblies.