Fiberforge Case Study: Sikorsky Corporation
For much of the time since Igor Sikorsky first tinkered with helicopter design in 1909, the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation has stood for the leading technology in vertical flight. The company's advanced helicopters set standards in the world market, and its swift Blackhawk and Seahawk helicopters have long been the staple of military rotary wing fleets. Over the past century, Sikorsky has made the helicopter practical--it also made it fast and, in some cases, downright amazing.
Sikorsky is developing the next-generation CH-53K helicopter for the U.S. Marines. The CH-53K will be Sikorsky’s largest and most powerful helicopter to date, with the capability to carry a cargo load of 27,000 pounds more than 100 nautical miles - performance that is twice the capability of its predecessor. In order to design a helicopter that can perform at this level, Sikorsky engineers have to cut as much weight as possible from the aircraft without adversely affecting the strength needed to withstand the difficult and dangerous conditions of U.S. Marine combat and rescue missions.
To meet the challenge, Sikorsky and subcontractor DRS Technologies have called on Fiberforge to develop a variety of components for the CH-53K, including floor panels, structural beams, pallet roller trays and tie-down elements for the internal cargo system. Fiberforge’s patented technology creates highly durable and structural carbon fiber thermoplastic composite parts and gives Sikorsky the ability to lightweight the cargo components of the CH-53K without compromising strength and durability.
This is the first time that Sikorsky has opted to use composites for a cargo flooring application. Traditional thermoset composites, while light and stiff, do not offer the toughness required for a cargo floor that is subject to high impact loads and harsh environmental conditions. Thermoplastic composites are tougher and more damage tolerant but historically haven’t been able to be produced cost effectively. Fiberforge’s processing technology has simplified and improved the fabrication of thermoplastic composites, enabling companies like Sikorsky to reduce the weight of more components than ever before at a cost comparable to traditional metals.
According to David Meyers, Engineering Manager at DRS Technologies, “For the CH-53K project, we need a thermoplastic cargo floor that is lightweight and durable enough to last 30 to 50 years—we just can’t afford for it to wear out prematurely. Fiberforge was selected for the project because of their ability to provide a high-strength, lightweight product that is also highly durable and reliable. As a company, Fiberforge is always willing to go the extra mile and that’s important to us.”
Thermoplastic composites from Fiberforge will ultimately help the CH-53K survive in today’s modern battlefield and support the Sikorsky Corporation’s mission of building aircraft that perform like nothing else in the sky today.