Industry focus: Investigating lightweighting in aerospace applications

The opening panel of the second day at Foam Expo Europe welcomed representatives from JSP, Airbus, European Space Agency and Greiner Aerospace, highlighting industry developments and trends regarding lightweighting and other applications in the aerospace industry.

In his opening keynote speech, Graham Coe, Head of Structures Section at the European Space Agency ESA, highlighted the use of foams in various applications, including launch and space exploration vehicles. Later on in the session, Coe highlighted the use of foam to reduce noise and vibration caused by the engines in launch vehicles during lift off: “There is a critical part of launch where acoustic environment is strongly driving. During launch and lift off, noise and vibration needs to be managed. You can loudly hear and feel a rocket launch, even when you are five kilometres away. The payload inside the launch vehicle’s fairing is much closer to the noise source and needs to be protected. Inside the vehicle we are looking to reduce the vibration and noise of launch. We use foam insulation on the insides of the fairing, which has a double function: it provides a key barrier for the noise to and also ensures the structural vibrations are dampened. We need to reduce acoustic noise that is transmitted”.

Klaus Brenner, Head of Global Engineering & Design at Greiner Aerospace, an aviation seating manufacturer, remarked on the importance of weight reduction in several areas of (commercial) aviation and space. Following questions sent in by the audience via Slido, Klaus highlighted the importance of lightweighting in, for example, insulation materials: “Insulation also adds weight, so you need less of it and have other ways to insulate. You can do this by taking different types of foams. You need to use different material to have the same feeling and less weight”.

Flame retardancy is also an area of priority in the aerospace industry, as illustrated by Ingo Roth, Technical Product Leader, Cabin & Cargo Interior and Materials (R&T) at Airbus: “You face safety of passengers inside the cabin and need to avoid fire spreading out in the fuselage. The fire needs to be extinguished, so that the passenger isn’t in danger and that it can be recognised quickly. For cargo and exterior, you want fire to be contained and you want to ensure fire doesn’t reach fuselage”.