GKN Aerospace Progresses Composite Damage Detection

GKN Aerospace researchers are working with a team at the University of Bristol in the UK on an 18-month program to explore advanced coatings chemistries that will accurately indicate the existence and extent of damage in composite structure.


GKN Aerospace researchers at the company’s Luton, UK facility are working with a team at the University of Bristol in the UK on an 18 month programme to explore advanced coatings chemistries that will accurately indicate the existence and extent of damage in composite structure.

John Cornforth, Head of Technology, GKN Aerospace explains: "As the proportion of the airframe that is composite structure grows, the ability to reliably and swiftly identify damage and understand its extent becomes ever more critical to an effective repair procedure. However, composite damage can be hard to spot with the naked eye as this material has the ability to appear to ‘recover’ post-impact."

GKN Aerospace's new coating will contain smart microspheres which will signal in the ultra-violet visible spectrum when damage has occurred. Careful design of the microspheres will mean the coating is able to provide a signature reflecting different energy levels, indicating the extent and level of damage to trained maintenance staff.

In this research activity, GKN Aerospace is exploiting both the intelligent coatings expertise contained within its market-leading aircraft transparencies business and its experience in complex composite structure design and manufacture.

Cornforth concludes: "We commenced this research activity with Bristol University just last year and already results are very promising. We believe this coating has the potential to make damage detection far easier across all types of composite structure and in difficult, real world, operating conditions."

GKN plc is a global engineering group. It has four divisions; GKN Driveline, GKN Powder Metallurgy, GKN Aerospace and GKN Land Systems, which operate in the automotive, aerospace and land systems markets. Approximately 44,000 people work in GKN companies and joint ventures in more than 35 countries. GKN is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE: GKN) and recorded sales of GBP6.1 billion in the year to 31 December 2011.

GKN Aerospace is a world leading global first tier supplier of airframe and engine structures, components, assemblies, and transparencies to a wide range of aircraft and engine prime contractors and other first tier suppliers. It operates in three main product areas: aerostructures, engine components/sub-systems and special products. With sales of GBP1.5bn in 2011, GKN Aerospace has a global customer base and operates in both civil and military markets, with significant participation on all major aircraft programmes.

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