Innovation in Large Aircraft Lipskin Manufacturing
Standex Engineering Technologies Group (ETG) takes pride in leveraging decades of experience to solve our customers’ challenges. We do this by providing new innovative metal formed solutions. Today, we are highlighting our lipskin manufacturing efforts.
Unlocking More Fuel Efficient Designs
The commercial aerospace industry is committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by mid-century. With significant research initiatives, the industry is actively developing hydrogen, electric, hybrid and 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) powered aircraft. In the meantime, airframers, nacelle and engine manufacturers are seeking nearer-term paths to reduce their carbon emissions and costs on new and in-development aircraft. One way they can do this is by increasing fuel efficiency through engine and nacelle design. Several aerospace leaders seek to use laminar flow surfaces. Using these will reduce nacelle drag and deliver the desired fuel efficiency gains.
To further the research into this field, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of aerostructures sought to verify the viability of manufacturing a nacelle inlet lipskin for a large, long-range aircraft that could meet the tolerances needed for laminar flow. The aluminum alloy lipskin demonstrator they designed for this effort measured approximately 15 feet in diameter, nearly 4 feet on its extended outside leg and most importantly was a monolithic construction. This desired part presented a major manufacturing challenge but would offer a large step forward in the company’s knowledge base enabling new and noteworthy technical achievements.
Finding a True Manufacturing Partner
Through collaboration with ETG’s Spincraft business, the aerostructures manufacturer tackled this unique metal forming challenge. The firm recognized Spincraft’s earned pedigree of forming large metallic structures to precise contours and tolerances for leading space and aviation applications. Delivered out of ETG’s Spincraft MA facility in North Billerica, the project required innovative tooling and forming processes to fabricate the demonstrator successfully. Standex ETG engineers devised and developed a new patented process to produce the desired large monolithic lipskin envelope that could be machined to final shape.
As with many experimental efforts, this project was not without challenges – particularly machining the innermost section of the lipskin with available assets and development time constraints. However, upon inspection, the majority of the part achieved required waviness requirements and any deviations were deemed resolvable.
The customer’s project was published in a research paper and presented at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Scitech 2022 Forum. A link to the paper and presentation can be found here.
Your Advanced Metal Formed Solutions Provider
The Standex ETG team is proud of its achievement in delivering this innovative metal forming solution and is keen to continue working at the leading edge of aerospace manufacturing. Reach out to us with your most complex designs to learn how Standex ETG can support you.