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4th April 2019, Thornton Cleveleys

herone’s drive-shaft system recognised at JEC

All-thermoplastic drive-shaft system. © herone

All-thermoplastic drive-shaft system. © herone

herone, from Dresden, has been declared a winner in the prestigious 2019 JEC Innovation Awards, in the Aerospace Application category. The winning application was the company's all-thermoplastic drive-shaft system overmoulded with an integral gear, designed for use in aerospace. The application is on display at AIX, which take place in Hamburg this week.

The drive shaft is formed from organoTubes, which are braided preforms made out of fully consolidated thermoplastic UD tapes, in this case, Victrex AE 250 unidirectional tape (UDT), a carbon-fibre-PAEK composite. The process was developed by the Institute of Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology (ILK) (TU Dresden) and herone for use in the manufacture of high-quality continuous carbon-fibre-PAEK composite hollow profiles. The organoTubes are then overmoulded with Victrex PEEK 90HMF40, a carbon-fibre-PEEK composite to incorporate the integral gear.

“We are extremely pleased to have won this JEC award, which means so much to everyone working in the exciting field of composites,” said Daniel Barfuss, Managing Partner at herone. “The solution is a result of converging innovations – hollow profile technology and the hybrid overmoulding technique developed by Victrex. This is teamwork in action, together we are pushing the boundaries of composite technologies in aerospace.”

Potential for reduced cycle times

By using thermoplastic tapes to form the organoTubes, the challenging and time-consuming process step of impregnating the carbon filaments with thermoplastic matrix material is completed prior to preforming. This opens the potential for reduced cycle times and increases the process efficiency for the composite profile production within the hollow-profile press process, the manufacturer explains. Furthermore, braiding enables high deposition rates and makes the process suitable for large-scale industrial production.

For incorporating the gears, injection overmoulding creates cohesive molecular bond between the shaft and the gear while the drive shaft is simultaneously thermoformed to create a form-lock between the gear and the drive shaft, to further enhance the strength of the interface.

Victrex AE 250

The Victrex AE 250 composite has a melting temperature of around 40 °C lower than Victrex’s short carbon fibre-reinforced PEEK 90HMF40. This means that with a difference of 40 °C in the melting temperature, there is no need to pre-heat the matrix polymer of the shaft beyond its melting temperature prior to injection overmoulding. This processing approach, on the part of Victrex, is known as “hybrid overmoulding” and is said to result in improved resource efficiency, process reliability and interface strength.

“In the aerospace industry, cost and manufacturing throughput are the primary drivers for innovations,” said Frank Schemm, Aerospace Sales Team Leader at Victrex. “herone and Victrex are together pioneering composite solutions for commercial aerospace that enable components to be manufactured faster, in higher part counts and with the potential for cost savings. Innovative consolidation techniques of thermoplastic materials differ considerably from metal or thermoset processing. Fully functional design features can be integrated in fewer manufacturing steps. We congratulate herone on this award for a composite solution that we are confident will see high market demand in a rapidly evolving industry. In particular, the strongly growing branch of electrical vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles, the so-called flying taxis, demand much higher production rates than classical legacy programmes.”

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