The goal of the ALCAS project was to maintain and enhance the competitive position of the European Aerospace industry in the face of significant challenges from strong global competition. The specific aim was to contribute to reducing the operating costs of relevant European aerospace products by 15%, through the cost-effective, full application of carbon fibre composites to aircraft primary structures. The target products range from business jets to large civil airliners.
The objective for airliner platforms was a 20% weight saving, with a zero increase in recurring cost against metallic structures. The wing platform built on the TANGO outer wing, from the TANGO Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) Technology Platform project, to address the most challenging parts of the inner wing structure, including engine and landing gear attachment. The fuselage platform investigated the impact of complex fuselage design features, enhanced damage capability and system integration requirements. It was also expected that maintenance costs were reduced, taking advantage of less fatigue and corrosion.
The objective for business jet platforms was a 20-30% reduction in recurring costs, with a 10% weight saving against metallic structures. The wing platform will focus on high-structural integration. Validation was through design, manufacture and testing of a full-scale wing of partial length, and a full-scale rear fuselage with sandwich construction, vertical and horizontal tailplanes and engine attachment, which consider system installation constraints.
Expected results included down-selection results showing which innovative technologies offer the best cost/weight benefits for structural applications. It also provided the knowledge and experience to offer a cost- and weight-effective, full composite wing, and composite business jet fuselage. Specific understanding was developed on high-point load inputs into composite structures, high structural integration, novel materials and joining technologies, cost effective tooling and damage analysis.
The project was organised into four technical platforms, as outlined below.
'Airliner Wing' covered the design, manufacture and testing of an inner wing and centre box of a large civil airliner, focusing on the centre box to lateral wing root joint, landing gear and pylon integration, and the highly loaded, complex curvature lower cover. The knowledge and experience gained from this platform built on that gained from the wing platforms during the TANGO project, and enabled the full application of carbon fibre composites to primary wing structures.
'Airliner Fuselage' built upon the knowledge gained from the TANGO Composite Fuselage platform for current fuselage areas. This platform was the next logical step towards the application of a composite fuselage to a large civil airliner. It covered component tests to address key fuselage challenges and complex design features, including large cut-outs and large damages in curved panels, keel beam and landing gear load introduction, tyre-impact damage, post-buckling and elementary crash analysis.
'Business Jet Wing' covered the application of carbon fibre composites to business jet wings, focusing on reducing costs by combining parts into an integrated wing structure, and includes architecture studies to identify the best wing joint configuration. Current technology is seen as prohibitively expensive for business jet applications, and this research aimed at developing and validating a cost-effective solution. A business jet-sized wing structure was designed, manufactured and tested.
The 'Business Jet Fuselage' platform covers the research required for the application of carbon fibre composites to business jet fuselages. A double curved rear fuselage with a sandwich shell, vertical/horizontal tailplanes and engine integration was studied. It buit on the FUBACOMP FP5 project, to provide the knowledge and experience for exploitation in real products. A business jet-sized rear fuselage structure was designed, manufactured and tested.
Thanks to the ALCAS project, which was funded for 50% by the European Commission with the remainder funded by the partners themselves, Europe has developed a range of cutting-edge design and manufacturing skills in one of its major industries.
The efforts of the 60 European partners, across 16 countries, and the project results showing which innovative technologies offer the best cost/weight benefits for structural applications helped to create the Airbus A400M which is now flying. That's the big change with the ALCAS project as it unfolded; people's knowledge of composites and their skill in making the parts is greater.
Through ALCAS, Airbus is developing the technology needed to build an aircraft of the future - lighter and more efficient - that is completely manufactured of composite materials