Honeycomb Cores and Panels: Their Uses in Aviation
Honeycomb cores first appeared on aircraft in the 1940s when they were used to reduce weight and increase payload & flight distance. They were integrated into aircraft designs as a replacement for the much heavier conventional sheet and stringer or beam support approach. Since their introduction, honeycomb cores have become a basic structural concept throughout the aerospace industry. In the 21st century, nearly every commercial and military aircraft depends on honeycomb cores for their integrity and reliability. There are many substrate materials used in honeycombs, and honeycomb cores can have densities as low as 16 kg/m3 (kilograms per cubic meter).
Honeycomb core is primarily used in structural applications, as honeycomb sandwich panels are highly efficient in terms of their stiffness-to-weight and strength-to-weight ratios. Wherever light weight is necessary, honeycomb sandwich construction provides an optimal solution. Design engineers are constantly presented with the challenge of reducing weight. This is especially important in aviation, where extra weight leads to extra costs.
Honeycombs are used in civil aircraft, defense aircraft, helicopters, and space. In addition to their weight-saving properties, civil aircraft benefit from honeycomb’s strength, stiffness, tolerance of extreme temperatures, and resistance to corrosion & fatigue. In defense aircraft, where performance is critical, optimized aircraft designs require use of more composites than ever. Civil and defense helicopters consume large quantities of honeycomb components. Parts such as the side walls, floor panels, and main rotor components are made from honeycomb. Finally, sending satellites into space creates the ultimate performance challenge for composite materials. Apart from their weight saving properties, these materials can perform in the broad range of temperatures they could be exposed to in space.
There are six main benefits to using honeycomb panels: strength, design flexibility, weight savings, corrosion resistance, cost, safety.
Strength: Honeycomb panels are durable and provide excellent fatigue, impact, and environmental resistance. The stiffness of structural materials reduces the need for a supporting framework, increases passenger room, and readily carries fittings.
Design Flexibility: Honeycomb panels can be custom tailored to fit exact engineering requirements. This can be quickly and simply done by cutting and folding the material.
Weight Savings: Nomex (a heat and flame-resistant fiber) and aluminum honeycomb provide lightweight cores with high temperature resistance in addition to bringing the benefits of high speed and low fuel consumption. These result in increased passenger satisfaction and will serve to improve the airline profits.
Corrosion Resistance: Honeycomb composites are resistant to corrosion, as well as fatigue, rust, and rot.
Cost: As lightweight, modular interiors are easy to handle & install, their quick install and fitting saves money on labor. Additionally, their corrosion resistance reduces the frequency and cost of maintenance.
Safety: Honeycomb panels feature multiple enhanced safety features, including the incorporation of fire-resistant materials and the elimination of sharp, jagged, edges that could protrude into the aircraft in the event of a crash or similar event.
Honeycomb cores and panels are used throughout aircraft in all of the following areas: catering and galley modules, partitions and doors, passenger and cargo flooring, ceiling panels, toilet modules, engine cowling, training & leading edges, ailerons & flaps, fuselage components, access panels, helicopter rotor blades. Whatever you need honeycomb panels for, ensure you are getting them from a trusted source.