TenCate is also a leader in – mouldable and recyclable – thermoplastic composites that are used in the aviation and aeronautic industries. The need for light-weight and super strong – meaning durable and economically responsible – high-quality thermoplastic material is also growing quickly in the automotive sector and in the oil and gas industry. The advantage of thermoplastics is their fast processing time – among other things because of their malleability at high temperatures and pressure – which enables industries to use these composites in high volumes in industrial production processes. This results in a high cost advantage. With rising oil prices and the restrictions on CO2 emissions, the automotive and aviation industries have an increasing need to use such advanced materials in their new generations of aircraft and vehicles.
The Netherlands has almost 100 years of experience building airplanes, which is why it conducted a number of research projects on the use of light materials in the aviation industry. Based on the results of these research projects, Fokker Aerostructures developed a range of products based on thermoplastic composite materials that have since gone into production. Examples are the welded leading edges on the fixed-wing A380 jumbo jet and rudders on the Gulfstream G650 business jet.
The goal of the collaborative TAPAS project (Thermoplastic Affordable Aircaft Structure), which involves Airbus, Fokker Aerostructures, TenCate, six Dutch knowledge institutes, and small and medium-sized businesses, is to develop material, production technologies and designs that enable the Dutch aviation cluster to bid for future Airbus work-package orders. The partners are currently working on tails, flaps and body shells.