Aircraft interior modules are based on thermoplastic honeycomb

The European Commission has funded development of next-generation solutions for aircraft interior modules with thermoplastic honeycomb technology specialist EconCore (Leuven, Belgium) and Diehl Aircabin (Laupheim, Germany) being two of the beneficiaries. The two companies envisage a new highly cost-effective process for creating modules by thermoforming and functionalizing mono-material sandwich panels in a single step.

Newly-developed aircraft interior module concept is based on a thermoplastic honeycomb that employs a special grade of polycarbonate.

The partners have produced a prototype of an aircraft stowage unit which will be presented at the Composites Europe 2017 exhibition in Stuttgart on September 19-21. Visitors will be able to see it on the stand (6E12) of EconCore’s subsidiary company ThermHex Waben.

EconCore and Diehl Aircabin, a division of Diehl Aerosystems specializing in cabin modules, crew rest compartments and air ducting, were supported by consortium partners from industry and academia during the four-year InCom (Industrial Production Processes for Nanoreinforced Composite Structures) project, which concluded at the end of August. The two companies now plan to work together on an independent basis.

The new development brings together EconCore’s honeycomb production technology with a special grade of polycarbonate (PC) that has outstanding fire-smoke-toxicity performance. Test reports confirm the excellent fire resistant behavior of the final sandwich structures, which cost significantly less than aramid and other conventional honeycomb solutions.

“We are very happy to be working with such an innovation-driven leader in the aerospace industry as Diehl Aircabin,” says Tomasz Czarnecki, COO of EconCore. “We are both looking forward to taking this development forward to create mono-material thermoplastic honeycomb sandwich panels that could be very efficiently one-shot thermoformed and functionalized into final aircraft interior modules.”

Czarnecki says EconCore’s continuous production technology has already been proven in very cost sensitive markets, including packaging, logistics, automotive, and other forms of ground transportation. “We believe that the aerospace industry will also welcome such a solution. We also believe that, with costs controlled by our fast, low-energy consuming, in-line integrated process, the fire-smoke-toxicity-qualified honeycomb technology could be extended to a wider range of applications, including railway transportation.”

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