With its inherent ability to make light, strong carbon fiber composite parts without the use of an autoclave, double-bag vacuum infusion could have a solid future in the manufacture of aircraft and other aerospace parts. That’s certainly true at Carbon Fiber Composites Inc. (CFC, Hurricane, W. Va.), where the manufacturing process has been key to opening the hangar door for two contracts to build parts for as many different kit aircraft platforms.
The company will fabricate about half of the tooling and all of the parts for startup airframer ION Aircraft’s (St. Paul, Minn.) ION 100, a two-seater designed for compliance with the U.S. Federal Aviation Admin.’s Light Sport Aircraft standard. CFC will manufacture about 30 parts for the plane, all of which will be foam-cored carbon fiber sandwich constructions. CFC president Brian Alley says the specific grade of carbon fiber has yet to be determined, but the OEM has specified for the core material a Divinycell HT aerospace-grade foam supplied by DIAB Inc. (Desoto, Texas). Alley says he expects the laminate schedule to consist of one to eight layers of carbon fiber, depending on the structural function of the particular part. The first full kit is planned for delivery by the end of this year.
CFC also has been tapped to make the molds and parts for the fuselage, tail booms and wings for a prototype sport aircraft for an unnamed customer. Alley is making the plugs from foam using a five-axis CNC mill. He says the OEM is on schedule to have a prototype ready by early 2013, in time to fly to Oshkosh, Wis., for the next EAA AirVenture Show.
For this carbon-fiber composite manufacturer, little things make big differences in a not-quite-new ...