Thermoplastic aircraft part

Collins Aerospace has been selected by the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to build a thermoplastic composite tail part for the F-16 military aircraft.

The three-year, US$100 mn contract includes using designing the part and making a prototype for the F-16 ventral fin, the company said.
Plans are to use Collins’ thermoplastic welding technology, which it says could reduce the weight and cost of the current design, while maintaining impact resistance.

“We are seeing an increased demand and opportunity to replace legacy aircraft components with thermoplastics,” said Stan Kottke, vice president and general manager of aerostructures. “The trend is using advanced thermoplastic materials to lower the cost and weight while reducing our overall environmental footprint.”

According to Collins, thermoplastic resin is tougher than the thermoset resins typically used in production. This can reduce the overall weight allowing for thinner design and increased range of payload. Thermoplastic materials also reportedly have an indefinite shelf life, can be stored at room temperature, and can be reused or recycled.