More than 50 per cent of the new Airbus A350XWB structure, including the fuselage and wings, is made from composite materials
More than 50 per cent of the new Airbus A350XWB structure, including the fuselage and wings, is made from composite materials
2 June 2014

Australian breakthroughs in techniques for welding composite materials are changing the future of aerospace engineering by cutting aircraft construction time and cost.

University of Queensland PhD student Luigi Vandi has worked on a new process that allows carbon-epoxy composite materials to be welded by incorporating a thin layer of weldable material during the manufacturing process.

“Composite materials have become the material of choice for modern aircraft structures,” Mr Vandi said.

“More than 50 per cent of the new Airbus A350XWB structure, including the fuselage and wings, is made from composite materials.”

The European-based company Airbus is one of the partners in the Co-Operative Research Centre for Advanced Composite Structures (CRC-ACS), which developed and patented the ‘Thermoset Composite Welding’ technique for implementation in aircraft construction.

Mr Vandi, whose work is refining the technique, said that unlike metals, carbon-epoxy materials normally could not be welded, making their assembly “challenging”.

 “This new process can significantly reduce the assembly time for aircraft made from composite materials – and consequently the cost,” Mr Vandi said.

“Using this process, welding composite materials takes only 15 minutes, compared to a typical two-hour process for conventional adhesive bonding methods.”

Mr Vandi said his research involved unravelling the molecular mechanisms at the interface between the composite and the weldable material. Understanding the molecular process ensured the technology could be safely implemented in aircraft engineering and construction.

“Aircraft manufacturers increasingly are using composites to help make their planes lighter, more fuel efficient and more comfortable for passengers,” he said.

“Composites offer significant advantages over metal, as they are not susceptible to fatigue and corrosion, and because they are reinforced with fibre, they rarely develop large cracks.”

Mr Vandi said the new welding technique had the potential to save billions of dollars in coming decades for airline manufacturers, which could then make new aircraft cheaper to buy, and reduce air travel costs for passengers.

Due to his breakthrough work on the new composites welding process, Mr Vandi won the annual ‘Early Career Researchers’ showcase prize at the CRC Association Annual Conference ‘Innovating with Asia 2014’ in Perth this month.

The Acting Executive Dean of UQ’s Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology , Professor Caroline Crosthwaite, said the achievement exemplified the quality of innovative research being undertaken in the UQ Composites Group.

“This group also evaluates the integrity of structural components and develops smart materials for structural health monitoring,” Professor Crosthwaite said.

“Congratulations to Luigi on receiving the Early Career Researcher award. This is a great achievement for not only himself, but also for the UQ Composites Group.”

The Co-Operative Research Centre for Advanced Composite Structures (CRC-ACS), the UQ Composites Group’s research partner, is a company funded by industry partners and the Australian Government, and works to advance composites technology in Australia and around the world.

Over its 22-year history, the CRC-ACS has been recognised worldwide as Australia’s foremost research and development centre in advanced composites. It has won awards for its success in technology development and implementation across market sectors – ranging from aerospace to oil and gas.

The 24 participants in the CRC-ACS include leading universities, major international businesses and Small to Medium Enterprises from Australia and six other countries.

Watch a video of Luigi explaining his work here .

Contact: Luigi Vandi, ph +61 (0) 424 705 763;  Madelene Flanagan (+61 7 3365 8525,