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A program intended to showcase GKN’s rapid creation of manufacturing tools also has resulted in a significant modification to a critical component of the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter. GKN Aerospace, Inc., originally was just going to demonstrate its rapid prototype tooling capability. That demonstration was successful but carried an important side benefit — a 30 percent reduction in the weight of a critical component for the Comanche helicopter.
To showcase GKN’s rapid prototype tooling capability for an important customer, Sikorsky, GKN and Sikorsky engineers selected the transmission support fitting of the Comanche. This highly contoured, complex fitting, which attaches the helicopter’s main rotor system to the aircraft, normally is made of titanium.
GKN manufactured four of the fittings using its unique advanced resin transfer molding process (AdvRTM(TM)). The quality of the parts resulting from the rapid prototype tooling demonstration was so impressive, Sikorsky ordered a fifth to test its structural capabilities. This composite part exceeded 140% of normal performance in pitch, roll, thrust and torque testing, matching the performance of the titanium design.
The composite part is expected to cost less than its titanium equivalent. However, it also weighs 30% less — 53 pounds as opposed to 85 pounds. Those savings are vital because of the relationship of weight to aircraft performance, payload and affordability.
Based upon GKN’s success with this fitting, GKN and Sikorsky now are now exploring the possibility of replacing other Comanche titanium components with GKN composites.
“”We have known, for many years, that our composites are ideal for replacing titanium in many critical aircraft components. It is very exciting that a demonstration of our tooling capabilities allowed Sikorsky to see first hand that composites offer a wide range of possibilities for aircraft designers seeking to cut weight and cost,”” said Tony Cacace, Chief Executive Officer of GKN Aerospace, Inc.
GKN Aerospace is a division of GKN plc, London, a global industrial company with sales in excess of $6 billion. GKN operates in more than 40 countries worldwide, employing some 36,000 people in its subsidiaries and an additional 16,300 in joint ventures. GKN Aerospace can be found on the Internet
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