The current global economic crisis has had an impact on nearly every industry, with the aerospace sector being no exception. While airline profits trended slightly upward in 2011, skyrocketing fuel prices have made it difficult to remain competitive. In addition, due to lagging profits, fleet owners have been forced to scale back plans to replace aging aircraft. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, a manufacturer of high-performance polymer components, have identified the following three trends its global customers are implementing to decrease overall costs:
1. Lightweight materials are worth their weight in gold
As fuel costs continue to rise, so does the importance of lightweight components in aircraft systems. There are several choices when it comes to materials, including metals, ceramics and carbon graphite. Lighter weight materials, such as Meldin 7000® series thermoset polyimide, are an effective choice to decrease costs for structural and bearing parts in aerospace applications without sacrificing quality or safety.
“High performance Meldin 7000 parts can help reduce the weight of various aircraft systems, and in turn, the overall weight of the aircraft, decreasing the total amount of fuel consumed,” according to Robert Gaiser, Business Manager, Meldin, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics. “This can provide fleet owners with significant cost savings over time.”
2. Reducing maintenance to increase the bottom line
Maintenance can make up as much as 10-20 percent of all airplane-related operating costs. For large commercial carriers, this can equal as much as one billion dollars a year. Parts made using Meldin 7000 require less maintenance and replacement.
“Fortifying key aircraft systems with components made from durable, long-lasting, high-performance materials, such as Meldin 7000, is a good way to safely reduce replacement and maintenance, maintaining the bottom line,” says Ken Smith, product manager, Meldin, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics. “In addition, Meldin 7000 advanced high-temperature lightweight finished parts support the overall performance of key aircraft equipment and strengthen our customers’ brands.”
3. Exercising powder-to-parts process control to speed time-to-market
In a competitive industry with a typically long and complex sales cycle, being first to market counts for a lot. Working more closely with parts and materials suppliers, OEMs and fleet owners can streamline the production process, while ensuring quality parts.
Finding a materials supplier with design, manufacturing and testing capabilities creates a single-source supply chain that would typically involve several different players. Working with one supplier instead of two or three, enhances operations, allowing OEMs to fleet owners to inject themselves into various stages of the manufacturing process. For example, starting in the early design phase, consultation with materials science experts and engineers ensures exact materials and part design specification. Exercising this level of powder-to-parts control can result in the ideal aerospace part: one that provides a high level of performance over a long period of time.