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Certifying Composite Designs for Aerospace and Defense

  • Magazine Article
  • 17AERP04_02
Published April 01, 2017 by SAE International in United States
  • English

Wherever you find newer and particularly larger aircraft these days, you're seeing the use of composite materials. The latest commercial planes, as well as innovative defense prototypes, demonstrate the awareness of aerospace OEMs regarding the value of composites for stiffness and structural strength exceeding metals, plus weight savings and decreased fuel consumption. The military may have taken an early lead in pushing the use of composites, but now both sectors are fully committed to advancing the technology.

Although employed as long ago as the 1950s for small aircraft components, composites had a rather bumpy ride for a while, generating much buzz in the 1980s, then falling somewhat out of favor in the 90s. In the earlier days, engineers were not fully aware of the damage tolerance issues, and the material systems at the time had lower through-thickness properties so they weren't as durable or impact resistant. Composites were also more expensive than metals, making trial-and-error methodologies costly.