SigmaLite moves closer to take off

19 Jun 2017 Published by

PARIS AIRSHOW, 19-25 June 2017

HALL 2B, Stand G171

Innovations from Sigma Components’ SigmaLite range of lightweight aerospace components are moving from concept to reality as several R&D projects for aero-engine and airframe applications move into test phases with OEM support.


COMPipe – a composite aero-engine pipe that delivers weight savings of 50% over traditionally-manufactured pipes – has attracted considerable interest since the results of the CleanSky-funded R&D programme were announced at Farnborough Air Show in 2014. Lab tests demonstrated that the thermoplastic composite pipe is capable of withstanding operating temperatures of up to 165°C, operating pressures of up to 450 psi and a typical engine operating environment, including fireproof requirements. The flagship technology is now undergoing application-specific testing, with results expected towards the end of the year.


SigmaLite’s range of lightweight end fittings and composite spring applications are also moving into important test phases, drawing significant interest across the industry.


Mark Johnson, founder and CEO of Sigma Components, said: “Moving on to engine testing is a significant step forward for the COMPipe project and a key stepping stone towards seeing the technology used in flight.


“While each new component in the SigmaLite range is an exciting development in its own right, the real step change comes when you look at how modest weight savings in a single fitting can create a massive snowball effect, greatly reducing the overall cost, size and environmental impact of manufacturing and running an aircraft. For example, our figures suggest that using composite rather than metallic pipes could offer total weight savings of approximately 10kg per engine. The knock-on effect for the rest of the aircraft is likely to magnify that, delivering empty weight savings of 50kg for a twin-jet aircraft.


“If that kind of difference can be generated by just one component, it’s not difficult to imagine the potential savings on offer if more composite and lightweight components were to be used.


The SigmaLite range currently includes composite pipes for aero-engine and airframe applications, lightweight end fittings – a variation of Sigma’s successful self-locking nuts – concept designs for metallic end-fittings produced using additive manufacturing techniques, composite drive shafts and spring applications.


Mike Andreae, director of technology and improvement at Sigma Components explained: “The design of many aerospace components hasn’t changed much in over 40 years. For example, when we took an initial look at the designs for pipe end fittings, it became clear they had been designed for ease of manufacture rather than any weight considerations.


“With environmental concerns driving change across the industry, if we can reduce the weight of key components without negatively impacting on performance, there are real benefits to be had both for fuel efficiency and environmental performance.”


The team at Sigma has already identified simple changes to the design of straight pipe-to-pipe end-fitting assemblies that offer weight reductions of around 30% using traditional manufacturing techniques. They are also exploring how more complex fittings – such as Y-pieces, elbows and flanges – could be manufactured using additive manufacturing techniques, with initial samples in stainless steel delivering weight savings of up to 60% compared to traditionally-machined counterparts.


Mark continued: “We’re very excited by the potential these programmes are revealing and we are receiving considerable interest from potential customers around the world. With representatives of the global aerospace industry attending Paris Airshow over the next few days, we’re excited to share our latest developments with them.”
The Sigma Lite range includes new products and works in progress from Sigma’s ongoing R&D programmes. These programmes have been supported by investments from the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme (NATEP), the UK Government’s Sharing in Growth programme, the EU-funded CleanSky programme and the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI).