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The Advanced Composites Group recently signed a repeat contract to manufacture a number of cockpit simulator shells for Thales.
ACG has been contracted to supply European Fighter Aircraft (EFA, Typhoon) cockpit simulator shells ready to accept an array of instrumentation and ancillary equipment for Thales Full Mission Simulators and Crew Trainers (FMS and CT). With positional accuracy of vital importance in replicating the ‘real thing’, leading the trainee pilot to believe that he is actually flying a real fighter plane, the shells are being manufactured at Advanced Composites Engineering (ACE), where the Group’s expertise, 5-axis CNC machining centre and fully equipped prepreg lay-up facility are applied to provide the desired end product.
The base structure of a simulator is in the form of a tubular steel platform onto which a fabricated aluminium display suite framework is rigidly-mounted. From this point, all features, including the inner and outer cockpit shells, and almost 600 individual composite components, are either mounted to or co-cured with the inner shell. ACG’s TB720, a low density, low CTE epoxy syntactic tooling block, is being used to manufacture LTM12 tooling. This is then used to mould the inner and outer shells, and a number of associated components – some of which are honeycomb cored to reduce weight, and improve rigidity and strength. The inner and outer shells, plus a range of components and stowage boxes, have been made using a combination of ACG’s MTM56 advanced composite resin matrix and GF0100 and GF0700 glass fibre off LTM12 tooling.
MTM56, which has been specifically developed for component manufacture, is based on a 120°C (248°F) curing, toughened epoxy matrix that can be used at temperatures up to 100°C (212°F). Although MTM56 can also be vacuum bag and press mould cured, the shells and a number of smaller components for the cockpit simulator have been autoclave cured, thus providing exceptionally high quality surface finish and supreme consolidation.
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