Challenge 21

Challenge purpose: Accelerated production methods for lightweight aluminium alloys ​

About the challenge

SONACA is currently fabricating integral aeroplane structures with advanced lightweight aluminium alloys. However, the current methodology of creep forming the alu panels in a female mould is too slow for further upscaling. A faster production method needs to be investigated which allows to further upscale the production of these parts​

Main section of application:

  • Aeronautics

Main cross-cutting topics:

  • Manufacturing & assembly

Scope of the challenge

In the framework of the development of the manufacturing of integral structures with advanced lightweight aluminium alloys, we are creep forming some sheet metal structures in a female mould at 300-350°C for 2-4 hours. For the moment, we are doing it in a furnace, using first a vacuum bag and a pump to elastically expand the sheet in a female mould.

This process works rather well but it is currently not suitable for high rate serial production, as it requires many manufacturing/handling operations and consumable materials, as well as the long-term availability of a large furnace.

Challenge objectives

Our challenge would consist in the development of some heating tools incorporating the following functionalities :​

  • Permanent system to elastically push and hold the sheet in the female mold (no need to apply vacuum by means of bags and vacuum pump anymore). It can be done in a different way as by the application of vacuum.​

  • Integrated fast heating system. ​

  • SONACA hinted to the following company with a potential heating solution​

  • Controlled cooling system​

  • Compact equipment including several modules to manufacture several parts simultaneously

If you require further information about this challenge please contact