COMPipe delivers 50% weight saving

15 Jun 2015 Published by


Hall 2B, Stand G158




Sigma Precision Components, which forms Avingtrans plc’s Aerospace Division, is delighted to announce that its Clean Sky, SAGE 3 funded project to develop composite pipes for Rolls-Royce aero-engines has delivered verified weight savings of 50% when compared to traditional metallic pipe assemblies.


With approximately 150 suitable pipe assembly applications per engine, using composite rather than metallic pipes could offer total weight savings per engine of approximately 10kg, with the knock-on effect for the rest of the aircraft likely to offer empty weight savings of 50kg for a twin-jet aircraft.


Mike Andreae, director of technology and improvement at Sigma, said: “We’re genuinely excited by the results of the programme, which offer a real step change in environmental performance for engine manufacturers.


“If all the engines due to be delivered over the next 20 years were made using COMPipe and its fittings, conservative estimates suggest a saving of 4.5million tonnes of CO2 could be made over the life of the engine, as well as a significant reductions in fuel costs.”


Sigma has been working with partner TWI to develop the composite pipes – known as COMPipe – over the last two and a half years for Rolls-Royce led SAGE 3.


The original brief was to develop composite pipes for Rolls-Royce aero-engines in various sizes and geometries, capable of withstanding operating temperatures up to 165°C, operating pressures of up to 450 psi and a typical engine operating environment including fireproof requirements.   The composite pipe assemblies also had to be significantly lighter than metallic equivalents, and cost competitive.


Mike continued: “Composite materials offer real potential for reducing aircraft weight but, as a relatively new technology, there is a lot of work to be done to develop components that can withstand the harsh operating environment of an aero-engine.


“Our COMPipe pipes use braided carbon-fibre and high-performance thermoplastics that can manufactured much more quickly than traditional thermoset composites and also allows the material characteristics to be engineered for specific applications. One of the biggest challenges was to develop a process to form pipes into the complex 3D geometries whilst maintaining leak tightness. We have also developed a series of lightweight end fittings as part of the programme.


“Validation testing has shown that Sigma’s COMPipe technology can withstand sustained pressures of 4000 psi and operating temperatures of up to 235°C. It has also passed a variety of fire, damage, and vibration tests. This makes it suitable aero engines, airframes and a number of other spin-off projects that we are now investigating further.”


Mark Johnson, founder and managing director of Sigma, added: “With increasing fuel costs and environmental concerns driving innovation across the aerospace sector, composite components are set to play a key role in future aircraft design.


“We have proved our capability to manufacture high-performance, engineered composite pipes and tubes at relatively low cost and, as we move into on-engine testing, we are optimistic that aerospace approval will not be far behind.


“The COMPipe technology is generating significant interest from a range of OEMs and we’re now exploring a number of associated projects – including an AMSCI-funded programme to develop composite drive shafts – that should see us further strengthening our position at the vanguard of developments in this field.”


Chris Bradford, Rolls-Royce Plc, Chief of Commodity Strategy – Externals Engineering, stated: “We have been very happy with the progress that the COMPipe consortium has made, and have gained confidence that this technology could work in our harsh aero-engine environment and are excited by the benefits it could deliver. As the concept has been proven, the focus now needs to be on broadening its applicability and building maturity to take this technology through to a production environment, so we can offer it as a genuine alternative to the metallic pipes of today’s engines.”