The Search for New Materials, Methods for “Large Landing Gear of the Future”

A U.K.-based company that designs and manufactures aluminum matrix composites (AMCs) components has been appointed to work on a two-year, $40.5 million (£28m) project titled “Large Landing Gear of the Future.”

Alvant, located in Basingstoke, United Kingdom, is participating in this project at the invitation of project-leader Safran Landing Systems, the international high-technology group and Tier 1 supplier of systems and equipment to the aerospace and defense industries. The project aims to make use of new materials and manufacturing methods to develop and demonstrate technologies that will reduce landing gear weight, fuel burn and noise, at the same time as improving reliability and lowering ownership costs.

Current landing gear systems are typically stronger and heavier than necessary because an outstanding safety record has resulted in proven techniques being perpetuated. However, they account for approximately three per cent of aircraft weight, with a corresponding effect on fuel consumption. Safran believes it is possible to reduce this without diminishing the gear’s capabilities or safety.

Richard Thompson, commercial director of Alvant

Alvant’s work on this project will be funded by a $675,000 (£513,000) grant from Innovate UK. This will enable the design, manufacture and testing of an AMC brake rod, targeting a 30 per cent weight reduction over an equivalent titanium component whilst maintaining the same strength as steel.

AMCs are advanced composite materials in which the aluminum is reinforced with a secondary high-performance material, typically a long fibre, short fibre, or particulates. Compared to unreinforced metals, AMCs have higher strength, greater stiffness, lower weight, superior wear resistance, and lower coefficients of thermal and electrical conductivity. AMCs also offer advantages over polymer fibre reinforced materials, such as carbon composites, including higher transverse strength and stiffness, a higher thermal operating range, better wear resistance, superior damage tolerance, and easier reparability.

“A key objective of the Large Landing Gear project is to test and demonstrate as many technology advances as possible,” said Richard Thompson, commercial director of Alvant. “Alvant’s AMCs are a sustainable solution that enhance product capabilities. This is a very attractive proposition for many industries, in particular, aerospace. Alvant looks forward to demonstrating this while working in conjunction with Safran. This landing gear component is just one of the many ways in which AMCs can help aerospace firms retain strength while reducing weight.”

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