Concept and Objectives:
Even though composite materials are more and more used in modern airframes, many significant improvements are still achievable. Firstly, the substitution of the assembly of many small composite parts by a single one-shot large part provides additional weight reduction. Secondly, the final assembly line process must be adapted to composite properties (lack of ductility, stiffness). Thirdly, if the appropriate level of confidence and cycle time was available. Simulation-based design would provide a faster and less expensive path to find the optimal structures than the current development process, which relies on physical tests. Lastly, more conductive composites are necessary to avoid additional weight for system protection. The aim of MAAXIMUS (More Affordable Aircraft structure through eXtended, Integrated, & Mature nUmerical Sizing) is to demonstrate the fast development and right-first-time validation of a highly-optimised composite airframe. The MAAXIMUS objectives related to the highly-optimised composite airframe are: 50% reduction of the assembly time of large composite sections; 10% reduction of manufacturing & assembly recurring costs; 10% reduction of the structural weight. The MAAXIMUS objective related to a faster development is to reduce by 20% the current development timeframe of aircraft structures and by 10% the corresponding cost.
The MAAXIMUS objective related to the right-first-time structure is to additionally reduce the airframe development costs by 5% through the delivery of a predictive virtual test capability for large composite structures with a quantified level of confidence, to avoid late and costly changes This will be achieved through coordinated developments on a physical platform, to develop and validate the appropriate composite technologies for low weight aircraft and a virtual structure development platform, to identify faster and validate earlier the best solutions through major improvements in airframe Simulation-base design.
MAAXIMUS Results in brief:
Improving aircraft manufacture through better validation
Researchers developed a testing and simulation system to build large structures made of composite materials for the frames of aircraft. This will result in faster, cheaper assembly lines and lighter, more efficient planes. Composite materials are being used more and more in modern aircraft structures as they are often lighter, stronger and cheaper to produce than conventional solutions. Further improvements can be made by substituting many small composite parts with single larger ones. However, current development of new structures relies on physical tests that are expensive and time consuming. An EU-funded initiative, ‘More affordable aircraft structure through extended, integrated, and mature numerical sizing’ (MAAXIMUS), aimed to make this process more efficient by introducing simulation-based design for the fast development and right–first–time validation of a highly optimised composite airframe. The project developed both a physical platform to validate technologies and a virtual structure development platform to identify the best solutions, using computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided engineering (CAE) technologies. Notable features of the system include modelling technologies to test structural behaviour and manufacturing process simulation tools to predict residual stresses and manufacture-induced defects.
With partners from leading European manufacturers and research institutes in the aeronautics sector, collaboration has continued since the project ended in early 2013 to further refine the system and bring it to market. The team estimates the innovative system will reduce the assembly time of airframes by 50 %, lower the costs by 10 % and the weight of the structures by 10 %, and cut development time by 20 %.
MAAXIMUS outcomes will increase the competitiveness of the European aircraft manufacturing industry by enabling it to produce more efficient and better performing vehicles.