How REHAU lightens the load with aeronautical engineering

Polymere Überflieger

Every gram counts in aeronautics. Fuel consumption and aircraft range are directly proportional to weight, so lightweight construction is crucial when designing new aircraft. And this is important not just to reduce emissions, but also to eliminate materials waste and protect valuable energy resources.

However, reducing the weight of aircraft fixtures often comes at the expense of less material strength, which can have a knock-on impact on safety, reliability, and the lifetime cost of ownership. It’s a tricky balancing act; aircraft designers need lightweight, tough, and flexible materials that can also withstand the rigours of daily flights around the world.

REHAU has supplied the aviation industry with high-performance interior trim component solutions since 1980. With the company’s vast expertise in producing polymer profiles, tubes/hoses, moldings and sealing systems, REHAU is ideally placed to now apply its extensive know-how to developing innovative new lightweight, high-performance materials.

RAU-FLIGHT is the brainchild of specialist engineers working in REHAU’s aviation division. They discovered they could produce lighter but also more rigid materials by embedding incombustible hollow glass balls during polymer manufacture. The balls, measuring only 30 microns across, allow the production of lighter, thinner-walled components, with no reduction in overall strength.

Compared to non-reinforced thermoplastics, RAU-FLIGHT components are up to 12.6 percent lighter.  The grip rail system used to secure passenger seats in an aircraft might previously have weighed 48 kg, but with RAU-FLIGHT it would weigh around 5 kg less. A small change perhaps, but every gram has a direct impact on fuel consumption. An aircraft fitted out with RAU-FLIGHT interior plastic components that would previously have weighed around 100 kilograms will burn through 2,000 liters less kerosene every year. That’s a substantial economic and environmental saving thanks to smarter, lightweight materials.

Even beyond the weight and environmental improvements, REHAU engineers also carefully crafted the look and feel of RAU-FLIGHT to create a distinctively smooth and high-quality mat surface. The profiles provide impressive fire prevention capabilities too, making them an all-round solution for complex interior design requirements across the transportation industry.

Today you’ll find REHAU lightweight materials in aircraft designed by Airbus, Eurocopter, Fokker, Lufthansa, and many others. And deep inside our secret research and development laboratories, engineers are hard at work developing the next breakthrough products to help reduce weight and improve safety even further.

Contact:

Dr. Martin Sonntag

martin.sonntag@rehau.com

Graduate Chemist Dr. Martin Sonntag (martin.sonntag@rehau.com) is Head of the Performance Compounds Team at REHAU. He has been with REHAU since 2006 and is a RAU-FLIGHT expert.

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