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When Kunststofftechnik Hans Rethwisch GmbH (KTR), a certified aviation supplier to Airbus, wanted to comply with stringent aircraft safety standards and reduce the weight on the Airbus¹ door handle systems, it chose Victrex PEEK polymer as a replacement for the metal handles.
According to Andrew Ragan, Product Manager, Victrex USA, Inc., “”Weight reduction was of paramount importance during the development of the Airbus aircraft. It was an enormous challenge for KTR to meet the Airbus engineers¹ demands to manufacture the lower casings of the two-piece door handles in plastic. Victrex worked closely with the technical designers at KTR on developing the handles using Victrex PEEK polymer.””
Characterized by high mechanical strength and low specific weight, Victrex PEEK polymer features higher specific strength compared to traditional construction materials such as aluminium. In addition, it is halogen-free with a V-O fire classification. “”Due to its exceptional properties, major companies in the aerospace sector are using the polymer for a number of sophisticated applications,”” added Ragan.
Initially only a 300 mm (12 inch) version of the door handle was required by Airbus. However, larger door handles measuring over 500 mm (20 inches) soon became necessary for the A380 aircraft. “”For these complex geometries,”” says Ragan, “”Victrex recommended using an easy flow carbon fibre reinforced grade, which had to go through an extensive qualification process at Airbus.””
The qualification process included various filling simulations and distortion calculations. The completion of the injection moulds was awaited with anticipation. “”The mould trials and load tests ran smoothly,”” says Ragan, “”Although Airbus engineers demanded additional load tests to be conducted in alternating load directions for safety reasons. Once the handle casings were injection moulded, they were then coated, delivered to Airbus and installed on schedule.””
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