The European commitment to the environment is demanding a change in the production systems of the aeronautical industry, since it is considered one of the sectors with the greatest involvement in CO2 emissions. The European HERON Project, led by the AITIIP technology center, has developed a set of innovative technologies to produce the tools that will be used to manufacture the demonstrator of a more sustainable aircraft wing.
HERON, which is funded by the European Commission with almost one million euros, is focused on the tooling of a specific section of the wing in order to manufacture three of its parts: the leading edge, the torsion box and the trailing edge. To this end, a set of advanced and smart technologies have been developed for the design and manufacture of tools that combine Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) and machining processes of high precision to improve the aerodynamic and kinematic parameters of a wing in motion.
The final purpose is to make production processes profitable by adopting the circular economy throughout the aeronautical value chain, so that the aircraft of the future consume less fuel in flight and reduce their CO2 emissions by 30%. In this regard, the technologies and tools developed at HERON seek to improve processes and structures, as well as a reduction of the production cycle time by 30%. This, in turn, will cut down manufacturing costs by 20%, energy consumption by 25% and environmental impact both in the production environment and in the air.
In addition to AITIIP, which is the coordinator of the project, the British company Alchemie Ltd and the multinational company AERNNOVA collaborate in the research as recipients of the breakthrough, as well as a representation of the interests of Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaken (CS2JU). Within the framework of the research, AITIIP is in charge of the technological development regarding the manufacture of innovative tools and parameterization of hybrid additive manufacturing processes with a high deposition rate. ALCHEMIE Ltd also leads the development of new polymeric materials for additive manufacturing.
Sustainable manufacturing of an airplane wing
According to data from the European Union, air transport represents about 2% of the 36 billion tons of CO2 generated per year by human activity. For this reason, both the production processes and the aircraft structures are urged to focus on this sustainability, starting with the development of more efficient technologies, materials and parts in terms of energy and economic profitability. In this sense, the methodology of the HERON Project, framed in the European CS2JU Program, is based on several strategic pivots.
On the one hand, it focuses on modular design for Resin Transfer Mold (RTM) tools, which facilitate cutting-edge part heating and demoulding strategies. On the other hand, it develops the use of a hybrid ALM system with high deposition rates. Finally, HERON's production environment is based on highly precise automated control with the aim of monitoring the entire industrial process in almost real time.
HERON's cutting-edge methodology will be used to manufacture an aircraft wing demonstrator, which will be suitable to study the technical parameters and kinematic and aerodynamic properties of what will be the wings of the aircraft of the future.