laminate of alternating layers of Aluminum and
glass fibre reinforced plastic, that is being used
in civilian aircraft for the first time. Glare is not
only lighter than aluminium, but is also more fire
proof and has higher fatigue strength. It also
reduces the weight of the A 380 by 800 kg.
GLARE is used in the fuselage of the Airbus A380 and is being evaluated for use as blast resistant cargo containers due to the unique combination of properties.
During the A380 development phase, Airbus filed more than 380 patent applications for technologies developed for the all-new double-decker. This invention, which consists of a single 360° composite piece, instead of several separate panels spliced together, contributes significantly to the A380s very low noise emissions.
|Glare: History of the Development of a New Aircraft Material |
The aircraft industry is very conservative in the adoption of new designs and technologies. Significant safety issues and low profit margins provide little incentive to change. Even when new aircraft are introduced, they tend to build heavily upon past designs, introducing only incremental updates in technology. Large changes can occur, but the process is very slow.
In "Glare: History of the Development of a New Aircraft Material," Ad Vlot documents the introduction of an entirely new class of materials to the industry. The transition from wood to aluminum began in the 1930s and was spurred to completion by World War II. Carbon and glass composites were gradually introduced in the 1970s and 1980s and continues even today. Glare, a specific type of fiber-metal laminate (FML) made from aluminum and fiberlgass composite, is now poised to be only the third new material to be used in aircraft primary structures. The new A380 jumbo jet from Airbus will make extensive use of Glare in the fuselage.
The history of Glare can be traced back to early bonded wood and bonded metal aircraft structures. True fiber-metal laminates, comprised of alternating thin layers of aluminum and fiber-reinforced plastic composites, were first developed in the 1970s. The first commercial FML was Arall, an aramid-aluminum FML developed at the Delft University of Technology (Delft). Arall was used in a few select aircraft components, but it had structural limitations that prevented wider use. Glare, a glass-aluminum FML, was developed in part to overcome these limitations.
Vlot was introduced to Arall in 1985, as an undergraduate at Delft. He remained active in the development of Glare and its application to the A380 until his untimely death in April of 2002. Arall was introduced in 1981, and Glare was selected for the A380 in 2001, so Vlot's career spanned almost the entire lifetime of the material.
As an engineer, Vlot tends to emphasize the technical challenges faced with developing and qualifying a new material for the aircraft industry. Although a strong technical background is not needed to follow the book, engineers will appreciate the level of detail.
What may be surprising to many readers is that the political and economic hurdles were more difficult to surmount than the technical issues. The history of FMLs involved many different academic, industrial and governmental organizations, located on both sides of the Atlantic. Each had its own internal agendas, which were often at odds with the other organizations. The Arall and Glare programs were almost killed several times, for reasons sometimes totally unrelated to technical merits.
In some cases, just the different work habits at two groups caused friction. Early on, the informal environment at Delft allowed rapid development of the Arall and then Glare. To qualify the material for commercial use, however, a more rigorous approach had to be followed. Neither approach was right or wrong, but each had its place at different...