Toray Develops Vacuum Pressure Molded Prepreg for Aircraft

Example of mock tail assembly

Toray Industries, Inc. has developed an innovative prepreg for primary structural components of aircraft that enables high-grade carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) molding with excellent mechanical characteristics without using an autoclave.

The company will further deepen this new technology to expand demand for high-performance CFRP components with low processing cost in various applications including aircraft, vehicles and general industrial use.

In general, CFRP primary structural components, used for the main wings and fuselage of an aircraft, are manufactured using an autoclave process method by laminating prepregs sheets, which are carbon fibers impregnated in epoxy resin, on a mold and heating them in an autoclave by applying high pressure to cure the resin. While the autoclave method has an advantage of stable molding for high-performance, high-quality CFRP components, it requires high initial capital investments, thus increasing the production cost of CFRP components.

To replace an autoclave method, Toray last year developed a vacuum pressure molding technology, in which CFRP is manufactured with one atmospheric pressure under vacuum suction, and recently developed a prepreg that is suitable for this vacuum pressure molding technology. The new prepreg, enabled by a newly developed novel matrix resin, has mechanical performance (compression strength after an impact and tensile strength) equivalent to a primary structural components of aircraft using existing prepreg and molded with an autoclave method.

A test mold of 2-meter component simulating part of an existing aircraft tail assembly is molded using the new prepreg and showed that it had low porosity content compared with existing prepreg and confirmed that it is a CFRP component of a level that can clear the strict quality control standards for aircraft components.

Part of this successful development is attributable to the “Innovative Structural Materials (Cross-ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion (SIP) program,” a strategic innovation program of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (managed by Japan Science and Technology Agency).

Toray has set business expansion in growth fields and the creation of new demand through the development of new products as important tasks for the carbon fiber composite materials business in its medium-term management program “Project AP-G 2019.” Under the corporate philosophy of “Contributing to society through the creation of new value with innovative ideas, technologies and products,” the company will continue to engage in the development of new products by developing high-performance CFRP and improving the processing capability.