(19)
(11)EP 2 650 120 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
17.06.2020 Bulletin 2020/25

(21)Application number: 13162774.7

(22)Date of filing:  08.04.2013
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
B32B 7/12(2006.01)
B32B 15/14(2006.01)
B32B 3/14(2006.01)
B29C 70/86(2006.01)
B64C 3/20(2006.01)
B64C 27/48(2006.01)
B64C 1/06(2006.01)
B64C 1/14(2006.01)
B64C 1/00(2006.01)
F16B 5/04(2006.01)
B32B 15/01(2006.01)
B32B 3/06(2006.01)
B32B 3/18(2006.01)
B64C 1/26(2006.01)
B64C 5/06(2006.01)
B29C 70/88(2006.01)
B64C 1/12(2006.01)
B64C 27/473(2006.01)
F16B 5/02(2006.01)

(54)

Multi-layer metallic structure

Mehrschichtige Metallstruktur

Structure métallique multicouche


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 10.04.2012 US 201213443687

(43)Date of publication of application:
16.10.2013 Bulletin 2013/42

(60)Divisional application:
19176984.3 / 3581376

(73)Proprietor: The Boeing Company
Chicago, IL 60606-1596 (US)

(72)Inventors:
  • Griess, Kenneth Harlan
    Kent, WA Washington 98031 (US)
  • Georgeson, Gary E.
    Tacoma, WA Washington 98422 (US)

(74)Representative: Witte, Weller & Partner Patentanwälte mbB 
Postfach 10 54 62
70047 Stuttgart
70047 Stuttgart (DE)


(56)References cited: : 
DE-B- 1 100 394
US-A1- 2008 292 849
US-A1- 2012 045 606
US-A- 3 321 019
US-A1- 2011 031 350
US-A1- 2012 049 000
  
  • DATABASE WPI Week 197352 Thomson Scientific, London, GB; AN 1973-80255U XP002714442, -& SU 378 611 A1 (MOSCOW S ORDZHONIKIDZE AV) 18 April 1973 (1973-04-18)
  
Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


Description

BACKGROUND INFORMATION


1. Field:



[0001] This disclosure generally relates to composite structures, especially fiber reinforced resin laminates, and deals more particularly with a hybrid composite having a composite-to-metal joint, as well as to a bonded metal laminate used in the joint.

2. Background:



[0002] A composite structure having composite-to-metal joints is known from US 2012/0045606 A1.

[0003] Bonding techniques are often used to assemble composite structures. In applications where the composite structure also requires fasteners, the local thickness or gauge of the structure surrounding the fastener may need to be increased in order to withstand loads transmitted through the fastener joint. As the local thickness of the structure increases, the fastener may need to be lengthened, thereby adding weight to the structure. Additionally, the increased local thickness of the structure may increase the eccentricity of the load path across the fastener joint, which may place undesired bending loads on the fastener.

[0004] One solution to the problems mentioned above consists of attaching metal fittings to the composite structure in the area of the fasteners. These metal fittings may be formed of titanium or similar metals that may not substantially chemically react with carbon fiber reinforced composites in which they are in contact. Titanium fittings, however may be relatively expensive, particularly when it is necessary to form them into complex shapes.

[0005] Accordingly, there is a need for a composite resin-to-metal joint that may be used to connect substantially all metal fittings with substantially all composite resin structures, which is relatively inexpensive and easy to manufacture, and which may withstand loads transferred around fastener connection points. There is also a need for a composite resin-to-metal joint that substantially avoids chemical reactions between the all metal fitting and the all composite resin structure. Also, there is a need for a composite-to-metal joint that may reduce residual stresses in the joint following a thermal curing. Further there is a need for a bonded metal laminate that may be used in the joints and in other applications where additional strength and durability are required.

SUMMARY



[0006] The above-mentioned need is overcome by a structure in accordance with claim 1, which defines the invention.

[0007] The present disclosure provides a hybrid-type composite structure that includes a fiber reinforced resin composite-to-metal joint that may be used to connect a substantially all-metal fitting with a substantially all composite resin structure or a different structure. The joint provides a transition between the composite and metallic structures that is suitable for use in higher performance applications, such as aerospace vehicles. This transition from a substantially all composite to a substantially all metal material may reduce or eliminate the possibility of corrosion and/or problems stemming from eccentricity. During lay-up of the composite structure, relatively thin, flexible metal sheets of metal are substituted for a number of composite plies, and the transition from composite plies to metal sheets occurs at staggered locations so as to provide adequate load transfer from the composite portion to the metal portion. The staggered transition results in an interleaving between the composite plies and the metal sheets and creates multiple bond lines that may reduce the occurrence and/or propagation of cracks or disbonds in the joint. An adhesive placed between the metal sheets binds and unitizes the sheets into a nearly solid metal fitting.

[0008] The composite-to-metal joint may be configured as a finger type, step lap joint in order to reduce residual stresses that may be induced in the joint during cooling of the hybrid composite structure following a thermal cure cycle. The bonded metal sheets employed in the joint form a metal laminate that may be used in a variety of other applications, and which exhibits improved performance compared to monolithic metal structures. In some applications, the composite-to-metal joint utilizing the metal laminate may be used to reinforce an edge of a composite structure or to reinforce an area of a composite structure around fasteners. Additional advantages of the disclosed composite-to metal joint may include improved joint robustness, reduced weight, improved safety, less maintenance, weight savings, improved inspectability, strength improvements, and reduced manufacturing costs. The disclosed metal laminate used in the composite-to-metal joint may enable a structure to have weight and fatigue characteristics of composite resin laminates while providing the strength and durability of a metal structure. The composite-to-metal joint may reduce or avoid the need for machined end-fittings for some composite resin structure applications. A shorter bond length resulting from use of the disclosed joint may minimizes residual (or cured in) stresses due to CTE (coefficient of thermal expansion) mismatch between the metallic and composite materials forming the joint, and may also benefit the in-service performance of the joint where service temperatures can vary 225 degrees F or more.

[0009] According to the present disclosure, a metal structure is provided that exhibits improved strain performance. The metal structure comprises at least a first metal laminate including a first plurality of metal sheets bonded together. The metal structure further comprises a plurality of layers of a bonding adhesive forming adhesive bonds between the metal sheets. The metal laminate includes at least one through hole therein adapted to receive a fastener. The metal structure may further comprise a second metal laminate including a second plurality of metal sheets bonded together, and at least one fastener joining the first and second metal laminates together.

[0010] According to the present disclosure, an integrated attachment fitting is provided for a structure. The attachment fitting comprises a composite resin portion, a metal portion, and a composite-to-metal joint between the composite resin portion and the metal portion. The composite resin portion includes a plurality of fiber reinforced resin plies, and the metal portion includes a plurality of metal sheets bonded together. The composite-to-metal joint includes overlapping steps between the fiber reinforced resin plies and the metal sheets. The composite-to-metal joint may comprise a finger joint. In one application, the structure may comprise an aircraft vertical stabilizer, and the metal portion may be a metal laminate attachment lug having a through-hole therein adapted to receive a bolt for attaching the lug to an aircraft fuselage. The composite resin portion forms part of the aircraft vertical stabilizer. In another application, the structure may be an aircraft wing, and the metal portion is a metal laminate having a plurality of through-holes therein adapted to receive fasteners for attaching the wing to a center wing box on an aircraft fuselage. The composite-to-metal joint may be one of a finger lap joint, a tapered lap joint, a vertical lap joint, and a lap joint having a variable overlap. In a further application, the structure may be a rotor blade having a root adapted to be attached to a rotating hub, and the metal portion includes a metal laminate located at the root, wherein the metal laminate has a through-hole therein adapted to receive a retention bolt for retaining the rotor blade on the rotating hub. In still another application, the composite-to-metal joint is an overlapping splice joint adapted to join two fuselage sections of an aircraft.

[0011] According to the present disclosure, a fastener reinforcement is provided for reinforcing an area of a multi-ply composite structure. The fastener reinforcement comprises a metal laminate including a plurality of metal sheets bonded together, wherein the metal laminate has a through-hole adapted to receive a fastener therein. The fastener reinforcement further comprises a composite-to-metal joint between the metal laminate and the composite structure. The meal sheets have edges that are interleafed with the plies of the composite structure.

[0012] According to the present disclosure, a method is provided of fabricating a composite structure, comprising assembling at least a first stack of metal sheets, and laminating the first stack of metal sheets together by placing a layer of adhesive between each of the metal sheets. The method further comprises assembling a second stack of metal sheets, laminating the second stack of metal sheets together by placing a layer of adhesive between each of the metal sheets, and fastening the first and second stacks of metal sheets by passing fasteners through the first and second stacks of metal sheets.

[0013] According to the present disclosure, a method is provided of reinforcing an area of a composite laminate containing a fastener passing through the thickness of the composite laminate. The method comprises integrating a multi-ply metal laminate into the area of the composite laminate to be reinforced, and forming a through-hole in the metal laminate for receiving the fastener. Integrating the metal laminate is performed by interleafing plies of the metal laminate with plies of the composite laminate to form a finger joint between the metal laminate and the composite laminate. According to the present disclosure, a method is provided of reinforcing an edge of a multi-ply fiber reinforced resin laminate. The method comprises joining a metal laminate to the resin laminate along the edge of the resin laminate. Joining the metal laminate to the resin laminate is performed by interleafing edges of the plies of the metal laminate and the resin laminate. The interleafing may be performed in a manner to form a finger joint between the metal laminate and the resin laminate.

[0014] According to an aspect of the present disclosure there is provided a metal structure exhibiting improved strain performance, comprising at least a first metal laminate including a first plurality of metal sheets bonded together. Advantageously the metal structure further comprises a plurality of layers of a bonding adhesive forming adhesive bonds between the metal sheets. Advantageously the first metal laminate includes a least one through hole therein adapted to receive a fastener therein. Advantageously the metal structure further comprises a second metal laminate including a second plurality of metal sheets bonded together and at least one fastener joining the first and second metal laminates together.

[0015] According to an aspect of the present disclosure there is provided an integrated attachment fitting for a structure, comprising a composite resin portion, a metal portion, and a composite-to-metal joint between the composite resin portion and the metal portion. Advantageously the composite resin portion includes a plurality of fiber reinforced resin plies, and the metal portion includes a plurality of metal sheets bonded together. Preferably the composite-to-metal joint includes overlapping steps between the fiber reinforced resin plies and the metal sheets. Preferably the composite-to-metal joint is a finger joint. Advantageously the structure is an aircraft vertical stabilizer and the metal portion is a metal laminate attachment lug having a through hole therein adapted to receive a bolt for attaching the lug to an aircraft fuselage. Preferably the composite resin portion forms part of the aircraft vertical stabilizer. Advantageously the structure is an aircraft wing and the metal portion is a metal laminate having a plurality of through holes therein adapted to receive fasteners for attaching the wing to a center wing box on an aircraft fuselage. Advantageously the composite-to-metal joint is one of a finger lap joint, a tapered lap joint, a vertical lap joint, and a lap joint having a variable overlap. Advantageously the structure is a rotor blade having a root adapted to be attached to a rotating hub, and the metal portion includes a metal laminate located at the root, the metal laminate having a through hole therein adapted to receive a retention bolt for retaining the rotor blade on the rotating hub. Preferably the composite portion is elongate and extends outwardly from the root. Advantageously the structure is an aircraft wing and the metal portion is a metal laminate having a plurality of through holes therein adapted to receive fasteners for attaching the wing to a center wing box on an aircraft fuselage. Advantageously the composite-to-metal joint is a lap joint adapted to join two fuselage sections of an aircraft.

[0016] According to an aspect of the present disclosure there is provided a fastener reinforcement for reinforcing an area of a multi-ply composite structure, comprising a metal laminate including a plurality of metal sheets bonded together, the metal laminate having a through hole therein adapted to receive a fastener therein and a composite-to-metal joint between the metal laminate and the composite structure. Advantageously the metal sheets have edges that are interleafed with edges of the plies of the composite structure.

[0017] According to an aspect of the present disclosure there is provided a method of fabricating a composite structure, comprising assembling at least a first stack of metal sheets and laminating the first stack of metal sheets together by placing a layer of adhesive between each of the metal sheets. Advantageously the method further comprises assembling a second stack of metal sheets, laminating the second stack of metal sheets together by placing a layer of adhesive between each of the metal sheets and fastening the first and second stacks of metal sheets together by passing fasteners through the first and second stacks of the metal sheets.

[0018] According to an aspect of the present disclosure there is provided a method of reinforcing an area of a composite laminate containing a fastener passing through the thickness of the composite laminate, comprising integrating a multi-ply metal laminate into the area of the composite laminate to be reinforced and forming a through hole in the metal laminate adapted to receive the fastener therein. Advantageously, integrating the metal laminate into the composite laminate is performed by interleafing plies of the metal laminate with plies of the composite laminate to form a finger joint between the metal laminate and the composite laminate.

[0019] According to an aspect of the present disclosure there is provided a method of reinforcing an edge of a multi-ply fiber reinforced resin laminate, comprising joining a metal laminate to the resin laminate along the edge of the resin laminate. Advantageously, joining the metal laminate to the resin laminate is performed by interleafing edges of the plies of the metal laminate and the resin laminate. Preferably the interleafing is performed in a manner to form a finger joint between the metal laminate and the resin laminate.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATIONS



[0020] 

FIG. 1 is an illustration of a sectional view of a composite structure having a composite-to-metal joint.

FIG. 2 is an illustration of a perspective view of the composite structure including the composite-to-metal joint.

FIG. 3 is an illustration of a perspective view of the area designated as FIG. 3 in FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is an illustration of a cross sectional view of the joint, better showing interleaving between composite plies and the metal sheets.

FIG. 5 is an illustration of a cross sectional view of two separated layers of the joint shown in FIG. 4, also showing the application of a film adhesive on the metal sheets.

FIG. 6 is an illustration of an enlarged, cross sectional view of a portion of the joint formed by the two layers shown in FIG. 5.

FIG. 7 is an illustration of a broad flow diagram of a method of making a composite structure having the composite joint shown in FIGS. 2-4.

FIG. 8 is an illustration of a flow diagram showing additional details of the method shown in FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 is a flow diagram of another method of making a composite structure having the composite joint shown in FIGS. 2-4.

FIG. 10 is an illustration of a perspective view of a composite-to-metal finger joint having a relatively shallow double taper.

FIG. 11 is an illustration similar to FIG. 10 but showing a composite-to-metal finger joint having a relatively steep taper.

FIG. 12 is an illustration of a sectional view of a composite-to-metal joint having a single taper.

FIG. 13 is an illustration similar to FIG. 12 but illustrating a composite-to-metal joint having a reversed single taper.

FIG. 14 is an illustration of a cross sectional view of a composite-to-metal finger joint having a symmetric double taper.

FIG. 15 is an illustration similar to FIG. 14 but illustrating a symmetric reversed double taper finger joint.

FIG. 16 is an illustration of a cross sectional view of a vertical composite-to-metal finger joint, according to the invention.

FIG. 17 is an illustration of a cross sectional view of a composite-to-metal finger joint having variable overlap between the plies.

FIG. 18 is an illustration of a plan view of a composite structure having a laminated metal reinforcement around a fastener.

FIG. 19 is an illustration of a cross sectional view taken along the line 19-19 in FIG. 18.

FIG. 20 is an illustration of an exploded, perspective view of a typical aircraft employing composite-to-metal joints.

FIG. 21 is an illustration of a sectional view taken along the line 21-21 in FIG. 20, showing a typical composite-to-metal joint between fuselage sections.

FIG. 22 is an illustration of a perspective view of a composite-to-metal joint between an aircraft wing and a center wing box.

FIG. 23 is an illustration of a perspective view of a portion of a skin of the wing box shown in FIG. 22.

FIG. 24 is an illustration of the area designated as FIG. 24 in FIG. 22.

FIG. 25 is an illustration of a perspective view of an aircraft vertical stabilizer, parts being broken away in section for clarity.

FIG. 26 is an illustration of a side view showing attachment of the stabilizer shown in FIG. 25 to a fuselage using a lug containing a composite-to-metal joint.

FIG. 27 is an illustration of a side view of a forward portion of an aircraft, illustrating a hatchway reinforced by a composite-to-metal joint.

FIG. 28 is an illustration of a sectional view taken along the line 28-28 in FIG. 27.

FIG. 29 is an illustration of a perspective view of a helicopter.

FIG. 30 is an illustration of a perspective view of a rotor assembly of the aircraft shown in FIG. 29.

FIG. 31 is an illustration of the area designated as FIG. 31 in FIG. 30.

FIG. 32 is an illustration of a cross sectional view of a bonded metal laminate.

FIG. 33 is an illustration of a cross sectional view of two bonded metal laminates joined together by fasteners.

FIG. 34 is a flow diagram showing a method fabricating the bonded metal laminate shown in FIG. 32.

FIG. 35 is an illustration of a flow diagram of a method of reinforcing a composite laminate containing a fastener.

FIG. 36 is an illustration of a flow diagram of aircraft production and service methodology.

FIG. 37 is an illustration of a block diagram of an aircraft.


DETAILED DESCRIPTION



[0021] Referring first to FIG. 1, a hybrid composite structure 20 includes a composite resin portion 22 joined to a metal portion 24 by a transition section 25 that includes a composite-to-metal joint 26. In the illustrated example, the composite structure 20 is a substantially flat composite sheet, however depending upon the application, the structure 20 may have one or more curves, contours or other geometric features. For example, composite structure 20 may comprise an inner and/or outer contoured skin 20 of an aircraft (not shown) which is secured to a frame portion 28 of the aircraft by means of a lap joint 30 and fasteners 32 which pass through the composite structure 20 into the frame portion 28.

[0022] The frame portion 28 may comprise a composite, a metal or other rigid material, and the metal portion 24 of the structure 20 may serve as a rigid metal fitting 24 that is suited to transfer a range of loads and types of loadings between the frame portion 28 and the composite portion 20. As will be discussed below in more detail, the metal portion 24 may comprise any of various metals such as, without limitation, titanium that is substantially nonreactive to and compatible with the composite portion 22 and the frame portion 28. In one practical embodiment for example, and without limitation, the composite resin portion 22 may comprise a carbon fiber reinforced epoxy, the metal portion 24 may comprise a titanium alloy, and the frame 28 may comprise an aluminum alloy or a composite. The transition section 25 and the joint 26 are strong enough to carry the typical range and types of loads between the composite resin portion 22 and the metal portion 24, including but not limited to tension, bending, torsion and shear loads. Although the illustrated transition section 25 and joint 26 are formed between an all composite resin portion 22 and the all metal portion 24, it may be possible to employ them to join two differing composite structures (not shown) or two differing metal structures (not shown).

[0023] Referring to FIGS. 1-4, a layup of composite material plies 35 is terminated at a interface location 39 referred to later herein as a transition point 39, where a metal sheet or ply 37 of the substantially the same thickness as the composite material plies 35 continues to the metal edge 24a of the metal portion 24, and the layup is repeated with a composite-to-metal interface 39 that is staggered toward the metal edge 24a from the prior interface location 39 and includes a ply of structural metal adhesive 45 (see FIGS. 5 and 6) between the metal plies 37, with the next composite-to-metal interface 39 staggered away from the metal edge 24a to produce a nested splice 27. This staggered interface stacking, which produces nested tabs 29 (see FIG. 3), is continued to the full thickness of the hybrid composite structure 20 with none of the composite plies 35 extending fully to the metal edge 24a of the all metal portion 24

[0024] Referring now also to FIGS. 2-4, the composite portion 22 of the structure 20 comprises a laminated stack 34 of fiber reinforced resin plies 35, and the metal portion 24 of the structure 20 comprises a stack 36 of metal sheets or plies 37 that are bonded together to form a laminated, substantially unitized metal structure. As shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, the composite plies 35 and the metal sheets 37 are arranged in layers 38. Each of the layers 38 comprises one or more of the composite plies 35 in substantially edge-to-edge abutment with one of the metal sheets 37. Thus, each of the layers 38 transitions at a point 39 from a composite i.e. composite resin plies 35, to a metal, i.e. metal sheet 37.

[0025] The transition points 39 are staggered relative to each other according to a predetermined lay-up schedule such that the plies 35 and the metal sheets 37 overlap each other in the transition section 25 (FIG. 1). Staggering of the transition points 39 creates multiple bond lines that may reduce the occurrence and/or propagation of cracks or disbonds in the joint 26. The staggering of the transition points 39 also results in a form of interleaving of the composite plies 35 and the metal sheets 37 within the joint 26 which forms a nested splice 27 between the all composite portion 22 and the all metal portion 24. This nested splice 27 may also be referred to as a finger bond 26, a finger joint 26 or a multiple step lap joint 26. The adjacent ones of the transition points 39 are spaced from each other in the in-plane direction of the structure 20 so as to achieve a bonded joint 26 that exhibits optimum performance characteristics, including strength and resistance to disbonds and propagation of inconsistencies such as cracks. In the illustrated example, the nested splice 27 forming the joint 26 is a form of a double finger joint 26 in which the transition points 39 are staggered in opposite directions from a generally central point 55 of maximum overlap. However, as will be discussed blow in more detail, other joint configurations are possible including but not limited to a single finger joint in which the multiple transition points 39 are staggered in a single direction.

[0026] The composite plies 35 may comprise a fiber reinforced resin, such as without limitation, carbon fiber epoxy, which may be in the form of unidirectional prepreg tape or fabric. Other fiber reinforcements are possible, including glass fibers, and the use of non-prepreg materials may be possible. The composite plies 35 may have predetermined fiber orientations and are laid up according to a predefined ply schedule to meet desired performance specifications. As previously mentioned, the bonded sheets 37 may comprise a metal such as titanium that is suitable for the intended application. In the illustrated example, the stack 36 of metal sheets 37 has a total thickness t1 which is generally substantially equal to the thickness t2 of the laminated stack 34 of plies 35. In the illustrated example however, t2 is slightly greater than t1 by a factor of the thickness of several overwrap plies 43 on opposite sides of the stack 37.

[0027] The use of a multiple step lap joint 26 may increase the bond area along the length of the transition section 25, compared to a scarf type joint or other types of joints which may require a longer length transition section 25 in order to achieve a comparable bond area between the composite resin portion 22 and the metal portion 24. Following thermal curing, cooling of the hybrid composite structure 20 may result in residual stresses in the joint 26 due to a mismatch between the coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) of the composite resin portion 22 and the metal portion 24. The amount of thermal expansion during curing is a function of the CTE of the composite resin portion 22 and the metal portion 24, as well as the length of the transition section 25. Use of the step lap joint 26, rather than a scarf type or other type of joint may reduce the amount of these residual stresses because of the reduction in the length of the transition section 25 that is needed to obtain a preselected amount of bond area between the two portions 22, 24 of the joint 26. Reduction of the length of the transition section 25 may also reduce residual stresses in the joint 26 after the aircraft is placed in service where large temperature extremes may be encountered during either normal or extreme operations.

[0028] FIGS. 5 and 6 illustrate details of two adjoining layers 38 of the joint 26 shown in FIGS. 2-4. In this example, each layer 38 comprises four plies 35 having a collective total thickness T1. The individual metal sheets 37 of the adjacent layers 38 are bonded together by means of a layer of structural adhesive 45, which may comprise a commercial film adhesive or other forms of a suitable adhesive that is placed between the metal sheets 36 during the lay-up process.

[0029] The combined thickness of each metal sheet 37 and one layer of adhesive 45 represented as T2 in FIG. 5 is substantially equal to the thickness T1 of the composite plies 35 in the layer 38. Although not shown in the Figures, a thin film of adhesive may be placed between the plies 35 to increase the interlaminar bond strength. In one practical embodiment, titanium alloy metal sheets 37 may be used which each have a thickness of approximately 0.0025 inches, the film adhesive 45 may be approximately 0.005 inches thick, and four composite carbon fiber epoxy plies 35 may be used in each layer 38 having a collective total thickness of about 0.30 inches. Depending on the application, the use of metals other than titanium may be possible. The distance between adjacent transition points 39, and thus the length of the overlap between the layers 38, as well as the thickness and number of composite plies 35 and the thickness of the metal sheets 37 will depend on the requirements of the particular application, including the type and magnitude of the loads that are to be transmitted through the joint 26, and possibly other performance specifications. It should be noted here that the bonded metal sheets 37 is not limited to use in a composite metal joint 26 discussed above. As will be discussed later below, a metal structure comprising bonded metal sheets 37 has a variety of other applications because of the superior strain performance it may exhibit, compared to monolithic metal structures.

[0030] The differing layers 38 of the joint 26 between the two differing materials of the composite and metal portions 22, 24 respectively (FIG. 1), render the structure 20 well suited to nondestructive evaluations of bond quality using embedded or mounted sensors (not shown). Ultrasonic structural waves (not shown) may be introduced into the structure 20 at the edge of the metal portion 24, at the composite portion 22 or in the transition section 25. These ultrasonic waves travel through what amounts to a waveguide formed by the metal 37 sheets and the interfaces (not shown) between the composite plies 35 and the metal sheets 37. MEMS-based (microelectromechanical) sensors, thin piezo-electric sensors (not shown) or other transducers placed in the structure 20 may be used to receive the ultrasonic structural waves for purposes on analyzing the condition of the bondlines in the joint 26.

[0031] Referring now to FIG. 7, one method of making the composite structure 20 comprises forming a multi-layer composite lay-up as shown at 65. Forming the lay-up includes laying up a composite resin portion 22 at step 67, and laying up a metal portion 24 at 69. The step 65 of forming the layup further includes forming a composite-to-metal joint between the composite resin portion and the metal portion of the lay-up, shown at 71.

[0032] FIG. 8 illustrates additional details of the method shown in FIG. 7. Beginning at step 40, individual metal sheets 37 are trimmed to a desired size and/or shape. Next at 42, the surfaces of the metal sheets 37 are prepared by suitable processes that may include cleaning the sheets 37 with a solvent, drying them, etc. Then at 44, the lay-up is assembled by laying up the metal sheets 36 and the composite plies 35 in a sequence that is determined by a predefined ply schedule (not shown) which includes a predetermined staggering of the transition points 39 between the plies 35 and the metal sheet 37 in each layer 38.

[0033] During the lay-up process, the metal sheets 37 are sequenced like plies into the lay-up, much like composite plies are sequenced into a lay-up in a conventional lay-up process. As shown at step 46, adhesive may be introduced between the metal sheets 37 in order to bond them together into a unitized metal structure. Similarly, although not shown in FIG. 8, a bonding adhesive may be introduced between the individual composite plies 35 in order to increase the bond strength between these plies 35. Next, at 48, the lay-up may be compacted using any of several known compaction techniques, such as vacuum bagging following which the lay-up is cured at step 50 using autoclave or out-of-autoclave curing processes. At step 52, the cured composite structure 20 may be trimmed and/or inspected, as necessary.

[0034] FIG. 9 illustrates still another embodiment of a method of making a hybrid composite part 20. The method begins at step 73 with laying at least one composite ply 35 that is terminated at an interface location 39 on a suitable layup tool (not shown). At 75, an adjacent metal ply 37 is laid up which is substantially the same thickness as the adjacent composite material ply 35. As shown at 77, the layup process is repeated with a composite-to-metal interface 39 that is staggered toward the metal edge 24a of the part 20 from the transition point 39. A 79, a ply 45 of structural adhesive is laid between the metal plies 37. Steps 73-79 are repeated successively to produce a nested splice 27 and a staggered interface stacking forming nested tabs 29 to the full thickness of the hybrid part 20, with none of the composite plies 35 extending fully to the metal edge 24a of the part 20. Although not shown in FIG. 9, the completed layup is vacuum bagged processed to remove voids, and is subsequently cured using any suitable curing method.

[0035] The composite-to-metal joint 26 previously described may be constructed in any of a variety of joint configurations in which the composite material plies 35 are interleafed with the metal plies 37. For example, referring to FIG. 10, the transition section 25 of the hybrid composite structure 20 may include a composite-to-metal joint 26 having a relatively shallow taper resulting from lengths L of overlap between the composite and metal plies 35, 37 that are relatively long. In the example shown in FIG. 10, the composite-to-metal joint 26 is a double tapered finger joint. In comparison, as shown in FIG. 11, shorter lengths L of the overlap between the composite and metal plies 35, 37 results in a double tapered finger joint 26 that has a relatively steep taper, in turn resulting in a shorter transition section 25 between the composite resin and metal portions 22, 24 respectively. The length L of the overlap may be optimized for the particular application.

[0036] FIGS. 12-17 illustrate other examples of composite-to-metal joint 26 configurations. In one alternative, the composite-to-metal joint 26 may comprise a double tapered finger joint 26 that includes a tapered or layered multi-ply construction above and below a composite-to-metal interface 39, wherein one or more overlap lengths, e.g., lengths L, may be chosen or optimized relative to a particular real estate constraint, area, or transitional stress or strain requirement. In one example, the real estate constraint or area may require a shorter transition section, for instance, between the composite resin and metal portions. In some applications, a transitional stress or strain requirement may require progressively less stress or strain along a portion of the structure. For example, FIG. 12 illustrates a single taper lap joint 26, while FIG. 13 illustrates a single reverse taper lap joint 26. In FIG. 14, the joint 26 is configured as a double tapered, substantially symmetrical, staggered finger lap joint while FIG. 15 illustrates a reverse double tapered finger lap joint 26. The use of the staggered finger lap joints 26 shown in FIGS. 14 and 15 may be preferred in some applications because the joint may have a CTE interface that is less than an equivalent step lap joint of a longer transition section 25 (FIG. 10). In FIG. 16, the composite-to-metal joint 26 takes the form of a vertical lap finger joint, while FIG. 17 illustrates a composite-to-metal joint 26 in which the overlap between the composite and the metal plies 35, 37 is variable through the thickness of the joint 26.

[0037] Attention is now directed to FIGS. 18 and 19 which illustrate a hybrid composite structure 20 comprising a composite resin portion 22 and a metal portion 24 that forms a metal laminate reinforcement 76 around a fastener 78 passing through the hybrid composite structure 20. The metal portion 24 forming the metal laminate reinforcement 76 comprises a stack 36 of metal sheets or plies 37 that are bonded together, similar to the metal laminates previously described. The metal laminate reinforcement 76 is connected to the surrounding composite resin portion 22 by a circumferential composite-to-metal joint 26, as shown in FIG. 19 which, in the illustrated embodiment, comprises a double tapered finger lap joint, similar to that shown in FIGS. 4, 10, 11 and 14. In one alternative, staggered finger lap joints may include a transition region where one or more edges of composite material plies, metal plies, or combinations thereof may have varying levels of overlap or non-overlap to achieve or meet a desired CTE interface coefficient, a desired real estate constraint, an area constraint, or transitional stress or strain requirement. In one example, real estate constraint or area may require a shorter transition section, for instance, between the composite resin and metal portions or metal plies. In one example, transitional stress or strain requirement may require progressively less stress or strain along a portion of the structure.

[0038] The metal laminate reinforcement 76 includes a central through-hole 85 through which the fastener 78 passes. The fastener 78 may comprise for example and without limitation, a bolt or rivet 78 having a body 78a and heads 78b and 78c. Although not shown in the drawings, the fastener 78 may be used to attach a structure to the composite structure 20, or to secure the hybrid composite structure 20 to another structure. The metal laminate reinforcement 76 functions to strengthen the area surrounding the fastener 78 and may better enable the composite structure 20 to carry loads in the area of the fastener 78.

[0039] The composite-to-metal joint 26 previously described may be employed in a variety of applications, including those in the aerospace industry to join composite structures, especially in areas where a composite structure is highly loaded. For example, referring to FIG. 20, an airplane 80 broadly comprises a fuselage 82, left and right wings 84, a vertical stabilizer 92 and a pair of horizontal stabilizers 94, and a wing box 108. The airplane 80 may further include a pair of engines 88 surrounded by engine nacelles 86, and landing gear 90.

[0040] The composite-to-metal joint 26 previously described may be employed to join or mount any of the components shown in FIG. 20. For example, composite-to-metal joints 26 may be employed to mount the wings 84 on the center wing box 108, as will be discussed below in more detail. Similarly, a composite-to-metal joint 26 may be employed to attach the vertical stabilizer 92 and/or the horizontal stabilizers 94 to the fuselage 82. The composite-to-metal joints 26 may be employed to mount the landing gear 90 on the wings 84, as well as to mount engines 88 and engine nacelles 86 on pylons (not shown) on the wings 84. Further, the disclosed composite-to-metal joint 26 may be employed to join fuselage sections 82a together. For example, referring to FIGS. 20 and 21, fuselage sections 82a may be joined together by a co-bonded lap joint indicated at 96, wherein each of the adjoining fuselage sections 82a comprises a metal laminate stack 36 and finger overlaps 98, 100 between composite resin and metal plies 35, 37 respectively. In this example, the metal laminate stacks 36 of the respective fuselage sections 82a may be joined together, as by bonding using a suitable bonding adhesive.

[0041] Referring now to FIG. 22, each of the wings 84 (FIG. 20) may be attached to the center wing box 108 by an attachment joint, generally indicated at 104. Each of the wing 106 and the wing box 108 broadly comprises an outer skin 120 attached to spanwise extending spars 110. The attachment joint 104 includes an attachment fitting 114 having a pair of flanges 118 that are attached by bolts 122 or other suitable fasteners to the skins 120. The attachment joint 104 may be reinforced by C-shaped channels 112 and brackets 116.

[0042] Referring also now to FIGS. 23 and 24, each of the skins 120 includes a metal portion 24 that also forms an integrated attachment fitting which is connected to a composite resin portion 22 by a composite-to-metal joint 26 of the type previously described. Although not shown in FIGS. 23 and 24, the metal portion 24 of the joint 26 is formed by laminated metal plies 37, and the composite resin portion of the joint 26 is formed by laminated composite resin plies 35. As particularly shown in FIG. 24, the metal portion 24 of the joint 26 may be scarfed at 128 to receive one of the flanges 118 therein. Metal portions 24 include through-holes 124 that are aligned with the through-holes 126 in the flanges 118 of the fitting 116. It may thus be appreciated that attachment joint 104 is reinforced by the presence of the metal portions 24 which are attached to the metal attachment fitting 114 by the bolts 122.

[0043] FIGS. 25 and 26 illustrate another application of composite-to-metal joint 26 that may be employed to attach a vertical stabilizer 92 or similar airfoil to an aircraft fuselage 82. As shown in FIG. 25, the vertical stabilizer 92 may comprise a series of generally upwardly extending spars 130 connected with ribs 132. A series of attachment lugs 134 on the bottom of the stabilizer 92 are each attached to mounting ears 138 on the fuselage 82 by means of attachment bolts 136 received within bushings 140 in the lugs 134. Each of the lugs 134 comprises a fiber reinforced composite resin portion 22 and a metal portion 24 which may comprise a metal laminate. The composite resin portion 22 is joined to the metal portion 24 by a composite-to-metal joint 26 of the type previously described. It may thus be appreciated that while the lug 134 is lightweight because of its predominantly composite construction, the area at which the lug 134 is attached to the fuselage 82 comprises a metal portion 24 which has a load bearing capacity that may be greater than the composite resin portion 22.

[0044] Attention is now directed to FIGS. 27 and 28 which illustrate the use of a composite-to-metal joint 26 employed to reinforce the edges 142 of a fiber reinforced composite resin structure, which in the illustrated example comprises the skin 120 of an aircraft 80. In this example, a fuselage hatch 141 has a periphery 142 terminating in an edge 144 (FIG. 28) that is reinforced by a metal portion 24 comprising a metal laminate stack 36. The metal portion 24 is joined to the composite skin 120 by a composite-to-metal joint 26, of the type previously described. In this example, the edge 24a of the metal portion 24 defines the fuselage hatch 141 opening. The composite-to-fiber joint 26 may also be used to reinforce the skin 120 around other openings, such as cockpit windows 125 and passenger windows 127.

[0045] Referring now to FIG. 29, the composite-to-metal joint 26 may be employed to attach components on other types of aircraft, such as, for example and without limitation, a helicopter 146. The helicopter 146 includes a main rotor assembly 148 and a tail rotor assembly 150. The main rotor assembly 148 includes a plurality of main rotator blades 152, and the tail rotor assembly 150 comprises a plurality of tail rotor blades 154. Each of the main rotor blades 152 is mounted on a rotor hub 156 secured to a rotating mast 168 that is powered by one or more engines 160. Referring particularly to FIGS. 30 and 31, each of the main rotor blades 152 is attached to the hub 156 by means of blade grips 164. The root 162 of each blade 152 is held on the blade grips 164 by retention bolts 166. Each of the blades 152 includes an elongate outer composite resin portion 22 which may be a carbon fiber epoxy composite, and a metal portion 24 that is attached to the blade grips 164 by the retention bolts 166. Metal portion 24 of the blade 152 is connected to the outer composite resin portion by a composite-to-metal joint 26 of the type previously described. The tail rotor blades 154 shown in FIG. 29 may similarly be attached to the tail rotor assembly 150 by a composite-to-metal joint 26.

[0046] Referring to FIG. 32, a metal laminate 170 comprises a plurality of generally flexible metal sheets or plies 37 which are bonded together by layers 45 of a suitable adhesive to form a structure that may exhibit performance properties that are superior to a comparable monolithic metal structure. The layers 45 of adhesive may comprise a conventional film-type structural adhesive. The metal plies 37 may be formed of the same metal or may be formed of differing metals, depending on the particular application. When the metal laminate 170 is placed in tension 175, the tension load is individually directed to each of the metal laminate plies 37, thereby distributing the tension load generally evenly throughout the metal structure 170. Thus, in the event of an irregularity or inconsistency in one of the metal plies 37 that may reduce the load carrying ability of the ply 37, the reduction is limited to that particular ply and the applied tension load is redistributed to the remaining metal plies 37 which provide strain relief. In other words, sensitive areas (i.e. plies 37) of the metal laminate 170 that are under load locally strain and transfer the load to adjacent metal plies 37, resulting in a form of a progressive loading of the metal laminate 170.

[0047] The metal laminate 170 shown in FIG. 32 may be employed to form composite-to-metal joints 26 of the type previously described, but may have other applications as well. For example, referring to FIG. 33, two generally flat metal laminates 170a, 170b may be attached to each other by a lap joint 172 and fasteners 178 that pass through through-holes 173 the metal laminates 170a, 170b. The lap joint 172 employing may exhibit characteristics that are superior to joints employing monolithic structures. The metal laminates 170a, 170b may form the edges of a composite structure to which the metal laminates 170a, 170b are joined by composite-to-metal joints 26 of the type previously described.

[0048] Referring to FIG. 34, a method of fabricating a structure begins at 180, with assembling at least a first stack 36 of metal sheets or plies 37. The metal sheets or plies 37 are then laminated together at 182 by placing a layer of structural adhesive between the sheets or plies 37 which bonds and laminates the sheets or plies 37 together into a first metal laminate 170a. Then, optionally at 184, a second stack of metal sheets or plies 37 is assembled and laminated together at 186 into a second metal laminate 170b. At 188, one or more through-holes 173 are formed in the first and second laminates 170a, 170b. At 190, fasteners are installed in the though-holes 173 to fasten the metal laminates 170a, 170b together.

[0049] Referring to FIG. 35, selected areas of a fiber reinforced composite resin laminate structure may be reinforced by a method that begins at step 192 with assembling a metal laminate reinforcement 76. At step 194, composite resin plies 35 of the composite resin laminate structure are interleafed with the metal laminate plies 37 of the metal laminate reinforcement 76 to form a composite-to-metal step lap joint 26 in the area of the composite resin laminate structure to be reinforced. As previously discussed, the metal laminate reinforcement 76 may be used to reinforce an edge of the composite resin laminate structure, or to provide a metal reinforced area around a fastener 78. Thus, optionally, at step 196, a through-hole 85 may be formed in the metal reinforcement 76, and at 198, a fastener 78 may be installed in the through-hole 85.

[0050] Embodiments of the disclosure may find use in a variety of potential applications, particularly in the transportation industry, including for example, aerospace, marine and automotive applications. Thus, referring now to FIGS. 36 and 37, embodiments of the disclosure may be used in the context of an air10raft manufacturing and service method 200 as shown in FIG. 36 and an aircraft 202 as shown in FIG. 37. Aircraft applications of the disclosed embodiments may include, for example, a wide variety of structural composite parts and components, especially those requiring local reinforcement and/or the use of fasteners during the assembly process. During pre-production, exemplary method 200 may include specification and design 204 of the aircraft 202 and material procurement 206. During production, component and subassembly manufacturing 208 and system integration 210 of the aircraft 202 takes place. Thereafter, the aircraft 202 may go through certification and delivery 212 in order to be placed in service 214. While in service by a customer, the aircraft 202 is scheduled for routine maintenance and service 216.

[0051] Each of the processes of method 200 may be performed or carried out by a system integrator, a third party, and/or an operator (e.g., a customer). For the purposes of this description, a system integrator may include without limitation any number of aircraft manufacturers and major-system subcontractors; a third party may include without limitation any number of vendors, subcontractors, and suppliers; and an operator may be an airline, leasing company, military entity, service organization, and so on.

[0052] As shown in FIG. 37, the aircraft 202 produced by exemplary method 200 may include an airframe 218 with a plurality of systems 220 and an interior 222. Examples of high-level systems 220 include one or more of a propulsion system 224, an electrical system 226, a hydraulic system 228, and an environmental system 230. Any number of other systems may be included. The disclosed method may be employed to fabricate parts, structures and components used in the airframe 218 or in the interior 222. Although an aerospace example is shown, the principles of the disclosure may be applied to other industries, such as the marine and automotive industries.

[0053] Systems and methods embodied herein may be employed during any one or more of the stages of the production and service method 200. For example, parts, structures and components corresponding to production process 208 may be fabricated or manufactured in a manner similar to parts, structures and components produced while the aircraft 200 is in service. Also, one or more apparatus embodiments, method embodiments, or a combination thereof may be utilized during the production stages 208 and 210, for example, by substantially expediting assembly of or reducing the cost of an aircraft 200. Similarly, one or more of apparatus embodiments, method embodiments, or a combination thereof may be utilized while the aircraft 202 is in service, for example and without limitation, to maintenance and service 216.

[0054] Although the embodiments of this disclosure have been described with respect to certain exemplary embodiments, it is to be understood that the specific embodiments are for purposes of illustration and not limitation, as other variations will occur to those of skill in the art.


Claims

1. Structure with an integrated attachment fitting, the attachment fitting comprising:

a composite resin portion (22) including a plurality of fiber reinforced resin plies (35);

a metal portion (24) including a plurality of metal sheets (37) bonded together defining a first group of metal sheets and a second group of metal sheets, wherein an end of each metal sheet being vertically aligned with an end of a non-adjacent metal sheet, such that the first group of metal sheets are aligned with a first vertical line and the second group of metal sheets are aligned with a second vertical line; and

a composite-to-metal joint (26) between the composite resin portion and the metal portion,

wherein the composite-to-metal joint is a vertical lap finger joint, and
wherein each metal sheet (37) abuts edge-to-edge multiple fiber reinforced resin plies.
 
2. The structure of claim 1, wherein the structure is an aircraft vertical stabilizer (92) and the metal portion is a metal laminate attachment lug (134) having a through hole (140) therein adapted to receive a bolt (136) for attaching the lug to an aircraft fuselage (82).
 
3. The structure of claim 1, wherein the structure is an aircraft wing (84) and the metal portion is a metal laminate having a plurality of through-holes (124) therein adapted to receive fasteners (122) for attaching the wing to a center wing box on an aircraft fuselage.
 
4. The structure of claim 1, wherein the plurality of metal sheets are titanium alloy metal sheets.
 
5. The structure of claim 4, wherein the plurality of fiber reinforced resin plies (35) are carbon fiber epoxy plies (35).
 


Ansprüche

1. Struktur mit einem integrierten Befestigungsbeschlag, wobei der Befestigungsbeschlag umfasst:

einen Komposit-Harz-Abschnitt (22) mit einer Vielzahl von faserverstärkten Harzlagen (35);

einen Metall-Abschnitt (24) mit einer Vielzahl von miteinander verbundenen Metallblechen (37), die eine erste Gruppe von Metallblechen und eine zweite Gruppe von Metallblechen definieren, wobei ein Ende jedes Metallblechs vertikal mit einem Ende eines nicht benachbarten Metallblechs ausgerichtet ist, so dass die erste Gruppe von Metallblechen mit einer ersten vertikalen Linie und die zweite Gruppe von Metallblechen mit einer zweiten vertikalen Linie ausgerichtet ist; und

eine Komposit-Metall-Verbindung (26) zwischen dem Komposit-Harz-Abschnitt und dem Metall-Abschnitt,

wobei die Komposit-Metall-Verbindung eine vertikale Überlappungs-Fingerverbindung ist, und
wobei jedes Metallblech (37) Kante an Kante an mehrere faserverstärkte Harzlagen anstößt.
 
2. Struktur nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Struktur ein Flugzeug-Vertikalstabilisator (92) ist und der Metall-Abschnitt eine Befestigungslasche (134) aus Metalllaminat mit einem Durchgangsloch (140) darin ist, das zur Aufnahme eines Bolzens (136) zur Befestigung der Lasche an einem Flugzeugrumpf (82) geeignet ist.
 
3. Struktur nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Struktur ein Flugzeugflügel (84) ist und der Metall-Abschnitt ein Metalllaminat mit einer Vielzahl von Durchgangslöchern (124) darin ist, die zur Aufnahme von Befestigungselementen (122) zur Befestigung des Flügels an einem mittleren Flügelkasten an einem Flugzeugrumpf geeignet sind.
 
4. Struktur nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Mehrzahl der Bleche Bleche aus Titanlegierung sind.
 
5. Struktur nach Anspruch 4, wobei die Mehrzahl der faserverstärkten Harzlagen (35) Kohlenstofffaser-Epoxidlagen (35) sind.
 


Revendications

1. Structure comprenant un raccord de fixation intégré, le raccord de fixation comprenant :

une portion de résine composite (22) comportant une pluralité de couches de résine renforcée par des fibres (35) ;

une portion métallique (24) comportant une pluralité de feuilles métalliques (37) collées ensemble, définissant un premier groupe de feuilles métalliques et un deuxième groupe de feuilles métalliques, une extrémité de chaque feuille métallique étant alignée verticalement avec une extrémité d'une feuille métallique non adjacente, de telle sorte que le premier groupe de feuilles métalliques soit aligné avec une première ligne verticale et que le deuxième groupe de feuilles métalliques soit aligné avec une deuxième ligne verticale ; et

un joint composite-métal (26) entre la portion de résine composite et la portion métallique,

le joint composite-métal étant un aboutage à recouvrement vertical, et

chaque feuille métallique (37) butant bord à bord contre de multiples couches de résine renforcée par des fibres.


 
2. Structure selon la revendication 1, la structure étant un stabilisateur vertical d'aéronef (92) et la portion métallique étant une patte de fixation en stratifié métallique (134) ayant un trou traversant (140) prévu pour recevoir un boulon (136) pour fixer la patte à un fuselage d'aéronef (82).
 
3. Structure selon la revendication 1, la structure étant une aile d'aéronef (84) et la portion métallique étant un stratifié métallique ayant une pluralité de trous traversants (124) prévus pour recevoir des attaches (122) pour attacher l'aile à un caisson de voilure central sur un fuselage d'aéronef.
 
4. Structure selon la revendication 1, dans laquelle la pluralité de feuilles métalliques sont des feuilles métalliques en alliage de titane.
 
5. Structure selon la revendication 4, dans laquelle la pluralité de couches de résine renforcée par des fibres (35) sont des couches d'époxy/fibres de carbone (35).
 




Drawing






























































Cited references

REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description