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TCTool: Developing Large-Scale Thermoplastic Aerostructures

Tue, 27 June, 2023

TWI worked as part of a project to deliver one of the largest thermoplastic aerostructures in the world.

The TWI-coordinated ‘TCTool’ project was funded as part of the Clean Sky initiative and saw us work alongside GKN Fokker, Brunel University London, London South Bank University, Acroflight Ltd and FADA-CATEC to develop innovative tooling, end effectors and industrialisation for the welding and assembly of thermoplastic fuselage components.

This required new approaches to tooling and automation to lower or remove fixed tooling costs that could account for over one-third of non-recurring aircraft assembly costs.

As well as reducing costs, the use of thermoplastic composites in aircraft aids light-weighting. These materials can also be joined using welding processes rather than the thousands of fasteners traditionally used in aircraft assemblies, further reducing manufacturing costs while improving reliability.

Photograph Copyright GKN Fokker, all rights reserved
Photograph Copyright GKN Fokker, all rights reserved

This work has led to the creation of a thermoplastic fuselage demonstrator, using thermoplastic composite technologies and smart robotics that promises a reduction in weight and manufacturing costs for aircraft.

The 8 metre by 4 metre multi-functional fuselage demonstrator (MFFD), which was delivered by the Clean Sky 2 STUNNING project, acts as the lower half of the overall fuselage demonstrator.

The structure includes over 400 thermoplastic fibre-reinforced parts, thousands of spot welds and hundreds of metres of continuous welds, demonstrating the feasibility of high rate production of between 60 and 100 aircraft per month. This development also promises a 10% reduction in fuselage weight and a 20% reduction in recurring costs.

You can find out more about the TCTool project here.


The TCTool project was funded as part of the Clean Sky initiative under grant agreement number 865131.

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