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22nd January 2019, Darling Heights

USQ to develop next-generation aircraft repairs

Researchers from Defence Science and Technology (DST) and the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) are working on a three-year collaborative project to develop next-generation repairs for composite aircraft structures.

With increasing numbers of military aircraft types containing composite structure, the ability to perform reliable cost-effective composite repairs is becoming a priority for Defence. DST engaged with USQ researchers from its Centre for Future Materials (CFM), who are focused on out-of-autoclave composite repairs.

USQ researchers (from left) Daria Bontch-Osmolovskaia, Dr Xuesen Zeng and Professor Peter Schubel with Dr Paul Callus from DST. © USQ

Conventional composite repairs often require the damaged part to be removed from the aircraft and repaired using an autoclave. Next generation out-of-autoclave repairs will be able to be performed in-situ using novel vacuum bagging processes, partners explain.

CFM Director, Professor Peter Schubel, said the research team was world-leading on adopting novel high-resolution 2D pressure sensors, coupled with numerical modelling of composites manufacturing. “Our particular focus is on developing an automated method of controlling the curing process in order to produce reliable repairs,” he said.

This approach is said to significantly increase real-time manufacturing information and enable a short loop to optimise the repair process.

The ability to repair damaged composite structure in-situ, rather than having to remove damaged parts and repair them in a dedicated facility, is expected to reduce sustainment costs and increase aircraft availability.

It is hoped that the collaboration between DST and USQ will create an Australian capability to undertake low-cost, rapid, reliable on-aircraft repairs for the growing number of military and civilian aircraft containing composite materials.

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