NCAMP Releases Polyimide Material Selection Results

17 July 2008

The National Center for Advanced Material Performance (NCAMP) will generate a material properties database for qualification of a high-temperature polyimide composite for use in both airframe and engine applications.

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Composite and Hybrids Branch (AFRL/RXBC) has selected Renegade Materials’ FreeForm14 Polyimide. NCAMP will also identify fabricators with the capability and experience to process polyimide materials, who will participate in the panel fabrication activity.

NCAMP will seek the FAA’s oversight in the qualification programs to create the pedigree necessary for the materials to be used in certified aerospace applications. As part of the FAA’s process, panel fabricators will need to have their panel fabrication process and panels conformed by the FAA.

Both the AFRL and NCAMP believe that polyimide composite materials are a viable substitute for many aerospace parts operating at service temperatures above 375°F that currently made out of titanium and BMI composites. Polyimide composites can replace titanium and other materials in many applications up to 500°F operating temperature, while offering potential advantages such as lower cost and significantly reduced weight. The advantages of polyimide over epoxy and bismaleimide include a higher operating temperature, which reduces maintenance costs and may eliminate the need for thermal insulation or protective coatings in some applications.

Many aerospace manufacturers have expressed interest in using polyimide composites to replace titanium, CRES or inconel parts to save cost and weight; however they require a useful database of the polyimide material properties. The material property data acquisition and qualification test plan will generate basic material allowables typically needed for airframe and engine applications and material properties typically needed to establish material control. Aircraft manufacturers will be able to design simple parts with the data from NCAMP, and sub-contract the part fabrication to companies that have participated in the qualification process or have shown process equivalency.

NCAMP Industry Advisory Board members and the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) assisted the Air Force in the material selection. The ballots were received from designated representatives of member organizations including Airbus, ATK Space Systems, Bell Helicopter Textron, Boeing IDS/Phantom Works, Bristol Aerospace Ltd-Magellan Aerospace Corporation, Cessna Aircraft Company, EADS CASA/Eurocopter, Embraer, GE Aviation, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, Honeywell Aerospace, Lockheed Martin Aero, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce Corporation, Sikorsky Aircraft, Spirit AeroSystems, and Toyota Aviation.

The original intent of the AFRL funding was to develop test data on two polyimide candidates; however, since the Renegade Materials’ FreeForm14 is the clear aerospace industry favourite, the AFRL, with advice from NAVAIR, has decided to qualify two product forms with FreeForm-14 resin system. Initial discussions suggest that there will be a 3K 8HS carbon fabric and a 145-gsm carbon unidirectional tape prepreg form.

The FreeForm-14 product family is based on Maverick Corporation’s MVK-14, a polyimide resin system formulated and patented in 2000 by Dr. Robert A. Gray with performance features enabled by GE Aviation FreeForm technology. The resulting product has been designed to replace PMR-15 polyimide, speciality metals and even BMI composites in high-temperature airframe and propulsion applications for military, commercial and general aviation structures requiring 375°F to 475°F wet and 500°F to 550°F dry operating environments.

Renegade Materials Corporation will supply the FreeForm14 prepregs manufactured at their prepreg manufacturing facility in Springboro, Ohio.

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