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From Wing to Wing & Nose to Tail, GE Materials Technologies Bring High-Performance to Broad Range of Critical Aircraft Applications

GE Advanced Materials : 05 April, 2005  (Technical Article)
GE Advanced Materials has designed high-performance engineering resin and sheet materials that help to enable development of next-generation aircraft interior components.
GE Advanced Materials has designed high-performance engineering resin and sheet materials that help to enable development of next-generation aircraft interior components. Beyond interiors, GE also offers an impressive portfolio of plastics, silicones, quartz, and ceramic products that deliver critical properties in aircraft applications ranging from windshields, structural components, door and engine gaskets, seals for passenger window assemblies, and brake systems to weather stripping, fuel cell coatings, and lighting and wiring components.

The increasing use of GE’s plastic, silicone, quartz, and ceramic materials in the aircraft industry is being driven largely by the products’ ability to help the industry meet its key challenges of weight reduction; resistance to impact, chemicals, and heat; flame retardancy; outstanding smoke and toxicity properties; and overall high-performance. Supported by the exceptional depth and breadth of its renowned global research and development organization, GE is able to offer highly specialized materials that have been engineered with the specific combinations of properties required by different interior, exterior, mechanical, and systems components.

“GE provides a superior array of advanced materials solutions to the aircraft interiors industry and almost everywhere else on the plane,” said Melanie Cook, GE Advanced Materials’ global marketing director, Transportation & Outdoor Vehicle Programs. “By addressing the critical challenges of weight reduction, safety, and performance under high-stress conditions, as well as offering the latest materials innovations, GE can provide targeted products that help give our customers a competitive edge.”

GE’s Ultem and Lexan resin-based materials are finding ever-expanding use in aircraft interiors. Ultem 9075 and 9076 amorphous thermoplastic polyetherimide (PEI) resins, in particular, offer excellent properties, including inherent flame resistance with low smoke emission, high strength, and broad chemical resistance. These high-performance materials are already widely used in interior applications, such as personal service units, retractable video displays, window trim, and air valve panels. They are available in custom colours.

Here at the Aircraft Interiors Expo, GE is displaying several applications featuring Ultem 9075 resin. These include a two-person passenger service unit and a two-person gasper air valve panel from the Airbus 340 aircraft, an air nozzle assembly, window trim, and an all-in-one personal service unit panel. The use of GE’s Ultem 9076 resin in aircraft interior extrusions is also being highlighted.

GE’s extruded Ultem PEI sheet provides design flexibility, outstanding mechanical properties, and excellent flame, smoke, and toxicity performance. At the expo, GE is showcasing Ultem 1668A sheet, which can be thermoformed, pressure-formed, twin-sheet formed, or used in flat or cold-formed applications. In aircraft interiors, this material is used to mould aircraft window reveals, air ducts, seating and flight deck components, galleys, stow bins, and sidewalls. Ultem 1668A sheet meets commercial aircraft interior requirements, including FAA smoke and flammability testing and toxicity standards BSS7239 and ABD0031, and has an OSU heat-release rate below 65/65. This material is paintable and is available from GE in a range of colours.

Boeing selected GE’s Ultem 1668A sheet for use in its C17 jetliner. For this application, the thermoformed Ultem sheet forms the aircraft’s entire cockpit. Boeing chose the material for its flame, smoke, and toxicity performance; light weight; and exceptional impact strength.

Another popular GE material for aircraft interiors is Lexan polycarbonate sheet. An extremely durable material based on GE’s tough, virtually unbreakable Lexan resin, this GE sheet product offers unmatched impact strength, outstanding dimensional stability, excellent aesthetics, and high stiffness for a range of interior applications. GE’s Lexan F6000 sheet, which is being featured at the expo, is very durable yet easily formed into complex shapes using standard thermoforming equipment. This material also provides high impact resistance and high heat performance, and is available in custom colours.

GE’s Lexan F6000 sheet applications that are being shown at the Aircraft Interiors Expo include an airline literature rack, a window track and reveal, an emergency door light fairing, and seat cladding parts.

The ability to withstand exposure to UV light, ozone, heat and cold, moisture, and severe vibration is essential in many aircraft applications. GE’s silicone products, with their exceptional resistance to stresses and harsh conditions, have long played a major and growing role in commercial aircraft environments.

GE’s silicone adhesives and sealants are used to seal and protect doors, wings, fuel tanks, wing edges, vent ducts, electrical wiring, and black boxes from the elements. They help seal passenger window assembly units and absorb noise-producing vibration. They are also used in galleys to seal countertops and maintain cleanliness. Because these products are inert, silicone sealants are effective for sealing air circulation ducts throughout the entire aircraft cabin.

GE silicone sealants, potting gels, and encapsulants are used in on-board aircraft computers to protect delicate electronic components. GE silicone products also help seal light lenses inside and outside the plane and help protect hydraulic switches and controls.

Two high-strength silicone adhesive sealants – GE RTV157 and RTV159 sealants – are on display at the expo. These one-component, ready-to-use materials cure to tough, resilient silicone rubber on exposure to atmospheric moisture at room temperature. RTV157 and RTV159 sealants offer excellent weatherability and resistance to degradation from exposure to ozone and chemicals.

GE’s quartz and ceramic materials are used in several aircraft applications. GE boron nitride (BN), for example, is used in powdered metal composites as a friction modifier for aircraft brake pads. The material helps to maintain sliding friction with reduced noise and vibration.

GE boron nitride also helps to create abradable seals that are applied to engine casings for correcting clearances that are difficult to achieve mechanically. For applications like this, BN powder is sprayed onto the engine housing to form a seal that is worn in by the blade rotation during service. High-performance quartz tubing from GE Advanced Materials is used in high-intensity lighting applications such as aircraft landing lights.

In addition to showcasing its high-performance product portfolio at the Aircraft Interiors Expo, GE Advanced Materials will preview a new material under development for aircraft interiors based on its AZDEL thermoplastic composite technology with Ultem resin. Other recently introduced products and technologies in development are also on display:

• Ultem 1668L sheet – an advanced, new material – derived from Ultem 1668A sheet – targeted specifically at first-class and business-class seating. This product retains an excellent low-gloss surface in complex geometric designs, provides over 10 percent weight savings vs. polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-based sheet materials, and offers an OSU heat-release rate below 65/65.

• Ultem films – new GE film products, available in gauges from 50um to 500um. These films are excellent candidates for a variety of electrical and electronics applications like flexible heaters, cable insulation, and insulation tapes. When metal plated, GE’s Ultem film can be used in parts where EMI shielding is required.

• Ultem fibre – new materials based on Ultem resin that can be spun into fibre by melt spinning, or that can be converted as a solvent-spun hollow fibre or membrane. Because the threads are amorphous, this product has a significantly higher glass transition temperature (215 C) than traditional semicrystalline-based fibers, such as polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) or polyetheretherketone (PEEK). GE’s Ultem fibre can be an excellent candidate for carpeting and seating fabrics, fire-block layers, and insulation blankets.

• Colours and Coextrusion – new GE developments in color/processing technologies for the aircraft industry. Recent developments include eye-catching metallic effects in Lexan F6000 sheet and white/black two-layer co-extruded Lexan F5000 sheet, an excellent candidate for window shade applications.
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