Optimisation of mountings and brackets using Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastics
An SME has developed a method for optimising mounting components onboard spacecraft using Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastics (CFRP). These structural components include harness supports and instrument mounts. The optimisation means that these components are now ~65% lighter than their aluminium counterparts whilst still retaining their performance characteristics. This significant light-weighting of components has many applications outside of space, especially in motorsport and aerospace.
A new method for the optimising and utilising Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastics (CFRP) has been developed for space applications. In particular, CFRP can be used to great effect in equipment mountings and in supporting electrical harnesses. This optimisation has led to a ~65% mass saving when compared to standard aluminium designs and production techniques. Whilst this weight reduction is absolutely mission critical within space applications it is greatly desired in a vast number of industries – especially when there is no compromise in performance. Such industries could include motorsport and aerospace where electrical harnesses need to be supported and routed but with an absolute minimum amount of weight added. An out-of-autoclave resin transfer moulding (OOA-RTM) technique is used in the production which also leads to a reduction in manufacture costs when compared to traditional CFRP production methods. This process also allows sufficient electrical conductivity enabling the electrical grounding of data & power harnesses. The electrical resistance is in the order of 1 Ohm.
Innovations & Advantages
- The main advantage of the space developed CFRP mounts are that they can be ~65% lighter than comparative aluminium designs
- More cost effective than other CFRP methods due to the manufacturing technique
- The manufacturing process is certified according to ISO 9001, ISO 9100 and NADCAP
- Genuinely transferrable into industries such as motorsport and aerospace
- Retains ability to electrically ground data and power harnesses
Current and Potential Domains of Application
The technology has been developed for use onboard spacecraft for brackets, mounts and other structural components. It does however lend itself directly to industries such as motorsport and aerospace where components that provide very similar functions are required and where light-weighting is a key priority.
The methodology of optimising CFRP for other components could also be transferred into other applications where dramatic weight saving is considered an important factor. These include:
- Marine – yachts, racing boats etc.
- Automotive – electric vehicles where minimising unnecessary weight is key.
- Healthcare – portable medical equipment