L&L Products develops a range of materials dedicated to aircraft interiors. Mike Richardson hears how the company meets the technology challenges taking place inside today’s modern civil aircraft.
It’s sometimes easy to overlook the huge amounts of technology and innovation that go into providing high-specification materials for the interiors of today’s civil aircraft. Very often the eye can be distracted by the curves and lines of exterior designs.
One company looking from the inside out to showcase its new generation of aerospace grade materials that are designed to satisfy the latest health, safety and Fire, Smoke and Toxicity (FST) standards is L&L Products. Dedicated to the construction of aircraft interiors, the company focuses on improving the health and safety properties of aerospace materials using innovative new components that eliminate REACH classified substances, such as borate zinc, trioxide antimony, and phenolic resins while attaining the desired FST properties.
Among its many products are new epoxy FST adhesives, which are compliant to the latest FAR 25853 regulations. These new structural adhesives improve the efficiency of the bonding process and help reduce production costs while improving fire safety. They cure at room temperature and avoid the need for a heat source, reducing energy cost. In addition, a new generation of FST splice film that doesn’t require frozen storage is now available. These new products possess a high expansion rate of up to 180%, which can be reached with low curing temperatures starting at 120°C.
In order to satisfy industry demands for noise suppression, L&L Products also offers acoustic materials that are used to dampen the vibration of sandwich panels, such as floors, side walls, ceilings, and partitions in order to improve the acoustic comfort in the cabin for a superior passenger experience. The lightweight material is embedded in the honeycomb leading to a damping functionalisation of the panel and further avoiding additional and costly operations to bond damping patches externally. The products are said to maintain excellent adhesion properties of the phenolic or epoxy prepreg skin to the core and is fully-compliant to FST regulations.
Patrick Siboni, L&L Products’ sales manager aerospace & composite Europe, believes that the company’s size is well-adapted to the aerospace industry and can help to bring innovative products, high levels of service - such as an accurate supply chain, short lead-times and good technical support - rapidly to its customers.
“L&L Products is a family-owned company with a long-term strategy in aerospace that focuses on developing long-term relationships with OEMs, main interior and seat-making tier one suppliers by providing quick response, local production and innovative products to help them reduce their production costs and increase their build rates,” he begins. “Our products are REACH-compliant and do not use any carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR) substances.
“We are a newcomer to the aerospace market, so the main demands require us to satisfy qualification and drawing change requirements for legacy aircraft programmes. It requires investment from customers, so the business case has to be well-proven. For new aircraft programmes, it’s easier to introduce new products, especially when OEMs require conformances to the latest FST properties.”
Regarding the kinds of material performance requirements that today’s interior design engineers look for, Siboni says that whilst there is a high demand for lightweight materials with FST properties, price and fast cure are also becoming part of the criteria for aerospace materials that help to reduce the production cost and cycle times.
“Airbus and Boeing build rates are increasing - especially for single-aisle programmes - so they demand fast-curing FST adhesives and splice films,” he explains. “We take health and safety very seriously into account, and we always anticipate any regulations that mandate the use of less risky components in our formulations.”
I ask Siboni how much time, effort and into what areas of R&D his company is currently investing. He outlines investment in the latest innovations linked to adhesion, FST properties and curing systems that enable more simplified processes and easier handling of material at the customers’ facilities.
“Surface treatment is always a difficult operation requiring time and extra care. Our adhesive and sealant products, such as L-F501 epoxy structural film to bond carbon fibre onto metal can avoid surface treatment and exhibits good adhesion on oily surfaces. FST properties often come from phenolic resins, zinc borate and red phosphorous fillers that are quite dangerous to operators and users. We’ve developed a range of new and safer FST materials without using such components.
“Curing times always present a bottleneck in the production cycle, so we’re working on formulations suitable for induction curing, which allow long open times with very fast curing cycles. In addition, our new generation of FST splice film materials – which are stable at room temperature and do not require frozen storage or transportation - will lead to the simplification of our customers’ manufacturing processes.”
In touch with technology
It’s Siboni’s view that dry-to-touch FST materials embedded onto parts could eventually improve the way the aerospace industry processes its parts in the future. Furthermore, an increase in health and safety conditions, faster processes and more cost-efficient parts could see the achievement of such technologies.
“The aerospace industry is seeking partnerships with long-term vision and strategy companies that can afford to invest in innovation,” he concludes. “L&L Products has defined a long-term and sustainable strategy for the aerospace industry and wins market share with its strong service and capabilities in bringing new innovations to market - not just ‘me too’ products. We’re focusing on the key aerospace players to understand their trends and demands and implement adaptable R&D projects accordingly.
“L&L Products has experienced people at all levels. They are our key assets that enable us to establish strong and long-term customer relationships. We’re a very honest, straightforward and friendly company to work with. Highly reactive and highly innovative, and with high service levels that form the DNA running through our company. We always adapt our products to customers’ needs. We never just sell off a catalogue - we always provide the right solution for every case.”
Through the appliance of material science, L&L Products uses its inside information to think outside the box and bring innovative products to the aerospace marketplace.