GKN Aerospace is purchasing its first industrial standard microwave oven - becoming one of only a few industrial organisations worldwide to own a machine for its own research use.
Phil Grainger, Senior Technical Director and Chief Technologist, GKN Aerospace comments: "This investment in microwave curing will deliver clear benefits, in the drive for greater process flexibility, reduced manufacturing times, higher rate manufacture and lower energy consumption."
This new equipment will be used by GKN Aerospace engineers in Munich, Germany, to progress research work that has been ongoing since 2005 into the use of microwaves in the production of composite structures. Currently the curing process is most commonly achieved using an autoclave. The autoclave is a highly effective processing oven, but is expensive, time consuming and energy heavy - representing a significant and relatively inflexible bottleneck in the manufacturing process.
Grainger continues: "Microwave processing promises to remove much of this costly bottleneck. It could cut processing times by 50 percent and we are seeing evidence that energy consumption could be cut by a staggering 90 percent."
The challenge for the research engineers at GKN Aerospace in Munich is to turn this potential into industrially ready processes for the next generation of aircraft projects - such as the next narrow body civil aircraft.
GKN Aerospace has purchased this microwave oven from Votsch Industrietechnik GmbH. The oven has a working chamber of 7000L and a power of 30kW. By using microwave technology, only the product is heated and requires cooling whilst the associated tooling and the oven chamber itself remain cool. This dramatically reduces heating and cooling times, and energy consumption.
GKN Aerospace in Munich has been researching the use of microwaves in composites manufacture as part of a German BMBF funded project which also involved German partners from the aerospace and automotive industries.