In March 2017, NLR presented a large composite ‘pylon upper spar’, a structure to which the engine of an aircraft is affixed. It is the first time that an institute has succeeded in automatically manufacturing such a long and thick composite aircraft part made of thermoplastic. The aircraft pylon is 6 metres long and 28 millimetres thick. Using a pylon upper spar made of composite instead of steel, allows aircraft manufacturers to reduce production costs and weight, and thus save on fuel consumption of aircraft. The pylon upper spar is expected to go into production around 2025.
The manufacturing of a composite pylon upper spar is more sustainable than making a structure that contains steel. The cutting leaves little residual material, and what does remain is recyclable. The pylon upper spar itself can also be completely shredded and reused at the end of its service life. The technique devised by NLR is also suitable for other aircraft parts, such as wing spars, stabiliser spars and floor beams, and there are also applications outside the aviation sector.