Aerospace industry is the most advanced industry and possesses reliable materials that are necessary to ensure optimal safety, longevity, and strength in any aerospace applications. Almost all the aerospace materials should be lightweight to allow for optimal aerodynamics, should possess great strength to ensure the safety of pilots and passengers, to withstand the physical forces of flying, and heat resistant to ensure structural changes which are kept to a minimum during the sudden and extreme temperature fluctuations that occur at high-speed and high-altitude flight. Honeycomb is the most reliable material used in aerospace applications, particularly, aluminium honeycomb, which meets the desired aircraft requirements.
Honeycomb materials resemble the structure of beehives which are an excellent solution for various aerospace applications. Production of honeycomb requires multiple steps such as expansion, corrugation, and moulding. Very less metal is needed to produce honeycomb and is an expensive process. Honeycomb is sandwiched between two thin panels of material and effectively combines the light-weight and high-strength qualities which are essential for an aerospace industry. The sandwiched structure is a smooth and flat surface of the panels that allows for easy installation. With the proper honeycomb design, the structures are designed and manufactured with any number of cell shapes, sizes, and configurations for added flexibility and high strength. Aluminium honeycomb has great stiffness which is among the highest of any composite core material available. Its resistance to compression is high, resistance to heat, flexible to temperature fluctuation, recyclable, non-moisture absorbent, resistant to mould or fungal growth and shear, which are key qualities needed in aerospace applications. More than 90% of all aluminium material processed annually is obtained from recycled products, making it a very environmentally friendly option.
According to the study “North America Commercial Aircraft Honeycomb Core Industry Situation and Prospects Research Report”, aluminum honeycomb core is used in various commercial aerospace applications such as critical substructures in rockets, aircraft, jet engines, and propellers. It is used in non-aerospace structures, such as wind turbine blades. Also, aluminium honeycomb is used in sensitive applications such as aircraft heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. The honeycomb core structure is very and does not buckle easily when bent due to it is lightweight property. Airplanes such as Boeing 787 Dreamliner use honeycomb core structure in its wings, tail fins, and parts of the fuselage. There is an increasing demand for lighter aircraft such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 which drive the growth in commercial aircraft honeycomb core market. There are multiple numbers of vendors in aircraft honeycomb core materials and are highly competitive. The leading vendors in commercial aircraft honeycomb core industry are DuPont, EURO-COMPOSITES, Hexcel, Plascore, Rockwell Collins, Argosy International, Indy Honeycomb, TRB Lightweight Structures and Tubus Bauer.
It was observed that there is an increasing demand to replace older and fuel-inefficient aircraft with more economical single-aisle models in North America. Advanced technology coupled with honeycomb core materials has enhanced and retrofitted aircrafts with improved comfort and safety for the passengers. These new trends have enabled airline operators to improve their revenues. Modern commercial aircraft manufacturers demand for aluminium honeycomb core because it is lightweight and also improves fuel economy. This encouraged the aerospace structure and component manufacturers to focus on using materials that will reduce overall weight of the aircraft and improve fuel efficiency, thus demanding for honeycomb core materials.
North American commercial aircraft honeycomb core market majorly consists of two materials such as Nomex and aluminium. Nomex honeycomb core materials account for a major share in the North American market. It is made with aramid fiber paper and are sometimes fused together with Kevlar which improves its weight, strength, fatigue, and stiffness. Nomex honeycomb core materials are used for aircraft interiors and provide high-performance in aerospace interior components category due to low density, high mechanical properties, and long-term stability. Nomex is expected to witness a larger consumption due to its lightweight and very good mechanical properties needed in various aerospace applications.
Aerospace is the largest consumer in North American commercial aircraft honeycomb core industry. Emerging trends that are impact the dynamics of the honeycomb core material industry are addition of lightweight rubber membranes in honeycomb cores to reduce noise in aircraft and cost-efficient production of honeycomb core with homogenous skin bonding. The future of North American commercial aircraft honeycomb core market is attractive with opportunities in the aerospace, defense, and marine, and other industrial applications. The honeycomb core composites provide excellent mechanical performance with robust growth in the end use industries. The rising need for fuel-efficiency and the need to reduce overall weight of an aircraft will drive the growth in honeycomb core industry in North America over the next few years.
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Ankur Gupta, Head Marketing & Communications