Recently-Developed Aluminium Solutions for Aerospace Applications
Two principal approaches are available to materials’ engineers to improve the overall cost-weight balance of metallic airframe structures: improving alloy performance and optimising materials’ utilisation. Although both approaches have been successful in the past, they are most effective when applied concomitantly. The Aluminium industry has a long record of improving aerospace alloys’ performance. Nevertheless, even in apparently well-explored alloy systems such as the 7xxx family, products with improved damage tolerance-strength balances have recently been developed, thanks to an improved understanding of the optimum Zn-Mg-Cu combinations for the required property balances but also to developments in casting capability. Novel dispersoids and dispersoid combinations have enabled further improvements of the performance of existing alloy families. For example, appropriate Sc and Zr additions have a significant impact on the grain structure of 2xxx alloys and thus on performance. Another high potential approach for alloy performance improvements is the optimisation of Al-Cu-Li-(Mg-Ag-Zn) alloys. These so-called “third generation Al-Li alloys” were principally developed for military and space applications; in order to meet the demands of future commercial airframes, more damage tolerant variants are being developed. AA2198 and AA2050 are used to illustrate the potential of these higher damage tolerance Al-Cu-Li alloys. However, materials performance improvements are only part of the potential developments of metallic solutions for airframes. Further gains of a similar magnitude in component weight and cost can be achieved by applying new technologies and new design solutions to metallic structures. The future of metallic airframes will depend on the concomitant application of both these approaches.
W.J. Poole, M.A. Wells and D.J. Lloyd
T. Warner, "Recently-Developed Aluminium Solutions for Aerospace Applications", Materials Science Forum, Vols. 519-521, pp. 1271-1278, 2006