High specification carbon fibre prepreg benefits CAMCOPTER® project

TenCate Advanced Composites has been involved in a long term tooling project with Austrian company Schiebel to develop materials for the CAMCOPTER® S-100 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

A tool and component developed for the CAMCOPTER® S-100 project by TenCate Advanced Composites.
A tool and component developed for the CAMCOPTER® S-100 project by TenCate Advanced Composites.

The CAMCOPTER® S-100 manufactured by Schiebel in its Vienna-Neustadt plant in Austria is a high performance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) capable of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL). The UAV’s design demanded the use of carbon fibre prepreg materials that had been manufactured to very tight tolerances. During product development, commencing in 2003, Schiebel worked with TenCate to identify a number of specific requirements for the development of the UAV.A high performance solution was ­developed using TenCate’s AmberTool® HX series of tooling prepregs and performance ­thermoset materials.

The technical requirements

The 3m long CAMCOPTER® S-100 employs a 41kw rotary engine and redundant INS and GPS navigation systems combine with robust composite construction to give a cruising speed of 100 km/h, as well as a top speed of 220 km/h and a payload of 50 kg.

The requirements included a low ­temperature prepreg system for the initial component prototyping, which would allow economical manufacture and fast delivery. The tooling prepreg system exhibited good dimensional stability, excellent surface finish and longevity of tool life. The specialised mid-temperature epoxy structural systems selected included TenCate E722 1K 120g carbon prepreg, a range of adhesive films, Nomex® honeycomb and syntactic core materials, all supplied by TenCate.

In addition, material tests were necessary to meet demanding environmental conditions required by Schiebel’s customers. TenCate adds that the supplier was also required to be highly flexible and fast acting, as well as offering absolute reliability.

Technical partnership

According to TenCate, its engineers developed a technical partnership with Schiebel to identify a solution that best fit these requirements. Using the AmberTool® composite tooling prepreg range and working with Schiebel to provide a more specialised customer specific version, TenCate says that it was able to provide the best tooling option. TenCate E722 component prepregs were manufactured specifically to Schiebel’s tolerances and TenCate was also tasked with ensuring supply chain logistics that matched Schiebel’s production schedules. Following this successful collaboration TenCate adds that it was able to provide a product solution that delivered a high degree of precision for all moulded parts, along with high accuracy. This was supported with regular technical visits and subsequent new product developments. For example, very high temperature performance applications led to the use of specialised prepreg products using cyanate-ester matrices. TenCate also provided advice on the supply of parts through sub-contractor assignments.

Final product package

The final product package included a tooling block pattern, made from epoxy tooling block that was coated with TenCate EC85 epoxy hard paint. A prepreg mould was autoclave moulded with TenCate AmberTool® HX50 epoxy tooling prepreg. The component parts were made from TenCate E722 and C740 carbon component prepregs.TenCate says that its complete service allowed a single supplier approach for all tooling composite requirements, from pattern material to core and component prepreg supply and technical support. TenCate has maintained this long term collaboration throughout the 10 year life of this technically demanding project. Schiebel has now also entered a marketing partnership for this aircraft with Boeing through its Unmanned Airborne Systems division. The TenCate AmberTool®range of tooling prepregs are manufactured at both UK and USA facilities. The portfolio includes the HX and TC series and ultra durable and high temperature nano silica 3M™ fortified tooling prepregs which are exclusively provided and supported by TenCate.