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Canadian Aircraft Industry Funding Materials Scientist

Suong Van Hoa (Concordia University)

Suong Van Hoa (Concordia University)

A group of aircraft companies in Canada, with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), are supporting the research of Suong Van Hoa at Concordia University on a new composite materials manufacturing technique. The funding, valued at $3.4 million, will support Hoa’s work for five years at the Montreal institution.

Hoa (pictured right) is director of Concordia’s Center for Composites in the university’s engineering and computer science department. His research focuses on advances in polymer nanocomposites, long fiber thermoplastic composites, nanomechanics of polymeric materials, shrinkage of resin, and intelligent materials.

In addition to NSERC, funders of Hoa’s research include Bombardier Aerospace, Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Ltd., Composites Atlantic, Delastek, and Emergia Aerospace. The technology in development by Hoa is called automated fiber placement (AFP) that aims to replace manual methods of assembling advanced composite materials in aircraft with automated processes.

Composites used in the aircraft industry are made up of microscopic carbon or glass fibers, bound together with a resin and then shaped into the form needed by the aircraft’s design. “Composites are the hot new trend in aviation,” says Hoa. “Although composite materials may be more expensive than metal per kilo, they allow you to save a lot of time and labor because you can shape the composite into exactly the form that is needed, rather than machining it.”

New large passenger jets like the Boeing 787 and Airbus 380 make extensive use of composite materials like carbon fiber, with a shift by manufacturers toward composite manufacturing technology based on AFP rather than the traditional labor-intensive methods.

Hoa’s research aims to develop AFP materials and processing technologies that can be used in the automated manufacture of aircraft and aerospace components, with an emphasis on small to medium parts of complex machinery. Properly engineered AFP processing promises to deliver components of higher quality composites, more environmental friendliness, and with lower manufacturing costs than commonly used composite technologies.

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