Solvay advanced polymers' family of Spire Ultra Polymers penetrates aerospace industry

Spire Ultra Polymers from Solvay Advanced Polymers, LLC, are making strong inroads in demanding aerospace applications such as hardware, fasteners, and mechanical components.

The company’s broad portfolio of ultra-performance polymers, which includes Torlon polyamide-imide (PAI), KetaSpire polyetheretherketone(PEEK), AvaSpire modified PEEK, and PrimoSpire self-reinforced polyphenylene (SRP), delivers weight reduction, freedom from corrosion, design flexibility, parts consolidation, and long-term reliability in metal replacement parts. They combine exceptional wear resistance with high strength, high heat resistance and dimensional stability, as well as broad chemical resistance and inherent flame resistance.

A strong example of Spire Ultra Polymers’ growing acceptance is the Solar Impulse, a solar-powered airplane that is being developed by a European industry consortium which includes several Solvay business units. The goal of the renewable energy project is for one pilot to fly day and night around-the-world making scheduled stopovers in an airplane that is completely powered by solar energy.

A wide range of advanced materials from Solvay Advanced Polymers including Spire Ultra Polymers have been selected for the two-ton airplane whose wingspan is equal to that of an Airbus A380. For instance, the weight of the throttle system was reduced by 35% with the use of Torlon PAI for the friction control spacers and stator. Carbon fiber-reinforced KetaSpire PEEK is used for the friction control axis and PrimoSpire SRP for the screws, nuts, washers, and printed circuit board spacers. The corrosion-resistant fasteners made of PrimoSpire SRP are expected to provide a 50% to 70% weight reduction versus aluminum and titanium. The material’s strength-to-weight ratio is greater than aluminum or stainless steel and approaches that of titanium.

For the wing flap and landing system roller bushings, Torlon PAI provides high strength and stiffness and broad thermal performance at temperatures as low as -50 C at altitude and up to 90 C on the ground.

The range of superlative properties and the cost/performance benefits are among the major considerations for OEMs who seek lightweight material replacement options in aerospace applications, says Shari Axelrad, global aerospace market manager for Solvay Advanced Polymers’ ultra polymers product line. Torlon PAI provides the highest strength and stiffness of any thermoplastic up to 275 C, along with superior resistance to chemicals, creep, and wear. Targeted aircraft applications include engineered fasteners, interior mounting brackets and rails, moving parts requiring excellent friction and wear, and engine components.

KetaSpire PEEK retains its mechanical properties up to 300 C and delivers a strong balance of chemical resistance, ease of processing, and excellent wear and fatigue resistance. Meanwhile, AvaSpire modified PEEK grades are proprietary PEEK-based formulations that bridge the price/performance gap with some grades offering improved toughness over PEEK, higher HDT for unfilled products, and greater stiffness than PEEK from 150 C to 200 C.

Targeted aerospace uses for KetaSpire PEEK and AvaSpire modified PEEK include stow bin brackets and support rails, fasteners and cable ties, tubing, and fan impellers. PrimoSpire SRP is the industry’s stiffest and strongest unreinforced polymer, offering an exceptional combination of surface hardness, chemical resistance, and inherent flame resistance. Key applications include threaded fasteners, support brackets, instrumentation housings, and ablative shields.

Spire Ultra Polymers can be processed using standard thermoplastic melt processing techniques and are available in stock shapes for prototyping and low-volume production.

Solvay Advanced Polymers, LLC, produces more plastics with more performance than any other company in the world. This gives design engineers worldwide more ways to solve top design challenges in automotive, healthcare, electronics, aerospace and other demanding industries.

Solvay is an international chemical and pharmaceutical Group with headquarters in Brussels. Its companies employ more than 28,000 people in 50 countries. In 2008, its consolidated sales amounted to EUR 9.5 billion, generated by its three sectors of activity: plastics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

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