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Cellite 840 panels from TRB are manufactured from woven glass with a phenolic resin and a Nomex honeycomb core, bonded with high-performance adhesive. (To view additional images, click arrow at top right of this image.)

TRB turns composites focus to aerospace sector

TRB Lightweight Structures Ltd. recently released an aerospace-grade lightweight honeycomb composite panel designed for interior applications, expanding the application areas for its range of composite flat panels.

Cellite 840 panels are manufactured from woven glass with a phenolic resin and a Nomex honeycomb core, bonded with high-performance adhesive. The woven glass prepreg skins are 0.5 mm thick. Standard panels are 2500 mm wide (±4 mm) by 1250 mm long (±3 mm). Other panel sizes are available upon request, the Cambridgeshire, U.K.-based company notes. Overall thickness is per customer request, ±0.25 mm.

The new design extends the range of TRB’s composite flat panels, which have been used for years to manufacture bonded assemblies, lightweight structures, and composite components for rail, defense, marine, and motorsports industries.

This product development builds on TRB’s recent AS9100 (BS EN 9100) aerospace accreditation, adding to the IRIS (International Railway Industry Standard) and ISO 9001 certifications already in place. AS9100 is an industry-recognized standard of quality and risk management for the aerospace and defense industry aimed at improving service standards and product reliability.

Obtaining AS9100 is part of TRB’s long-term strategic investment in the aerospace sector, both in the U.K. and globally. Additional new capacity and capabilities in the design and manufacture of composite materials have been made over the past year to help secure new business. Recent investments for manufacturing composites include the procurement of a new 3- x 1.5-m autoclave system.

“As specialists in the design and engineering of lightweight composite solutions, we enjoy the challenges that the aerospace industry provides,” said Richard Holland, Managing Director of TRB. “Obtaining AS9100 now allows us to extend our expertise as an end-to-end service provider further into the heart of this demanding industry, as well as improving our service to existing customers in aerospace and defense.

“In the last 12 months, in addition to putting in place additional composites capabilities, we’ve been on a journey that has seen us implement many improvements across the business to raise quality and drive down costs,” Holland continued. “A key focus on production efficiency means that we are now able to offer significantly reduced lead times. As a result, we’re currently in the process of negotiating new contracts with a number of aerospace customers, and we expect more to come on board now that we are AS9100 approved.”

Procured in June 2015, the new autoclave system for the manufacturing of high-performance composite components is 3 m long and has a process mass including tooling of up to 500 kg. The vessel is designed to meet the requirements of PD 5500 with a design pressure capability of 10 bar at 250°C.

The autoclave system complements TRB’s existing range of machines for composite manufacture that includes ovens, computer-controlled multi-daylight heated platen presses for high-performance material bonding, and a 4000-ft² ISO 14644 class clean room.

“The autoclave system is an important step in the continued development of our business,” said Andrew Dugmore, Sales Director at TRB. “[It] enhances our current in-house capability, ensuring we maintain control of costs, lead times, and quality.”

He added, “This has resulted in new contracts for key customers including the manufacture of a complex, lightweight backing structure for use in an RF Mock-Up of a new microwave instrument for Airbus, and a complete carbon-fiber floor system for a high-performance racing yacht for Green Marine.”

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