Eclipse 500 – the world’s first production aircraft to use friction stir welding
Event delegates will be able to see at first-hand the Eclipse N504EA - one of four prototypes used by Eclipse Aerospace during the development and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval of the Eclipse 500; the world’s first production aircraft to use friction stir welding (FSW).
Donated to TWI by Eclipse Aerospace and professionally restored for display by Marshall Aviation Services, the refurbished aircraft will be unveiled outside the southern entrance to TWI’s headquarters during the Symposium.
Brent Christner, Senior Director of Engineering at Eclipse Aerospace will talk about the aircraft at the opening of the Symposium on Tuesday 17 May in his presentation A Friction Stir Welded Jet Aircraft: From Concept to Reality.
In 2002 the FAA gave Eclipse Aerospace approval to include a total of 263 FSW joints in its jet design, totalling 136 metres in length. The method was used on the cockpit, cabin, aft fuselage, and wing components. The use of FSW avoided the need to manually drill and install more than 7000 rivets – a 60% reduction. These joints were not only mechanically superior, but also significantly lighter and faster to produce. More than 260 customer Eclipse 500 aircraft were built before production ended in 2013. It was replaced by the Eclipse 550, which continues extensive use of FSW.
Invented by Wayne Thomas at TWI in 1991, FSW overcomes many of the problems associated with traditional joining techniques. FSW is a solid-state process which produces welds of high quality in difficult-to-weld materials such as aluminium, and is fast becoming the process of choice for manufacturing lightweight transport structures such as boats, trains and aeroplanes.
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