From the March issue of Aircraft Interiors International
Kevin O’Brien, director of operations at Tapis Corporation, an aviation textiles supplier, has first-hand experience of just how complex composite flammability tests can be, and what can go wrong. According to O’Brien, failures lead to innovation, which can have long-term benefits, such as expanding the company’s palette for aircraft interiors, and generating new materials that address the most baffling problems.
“The biggest challenge we had a couple of years ago with our Ultraleather product was that vertical surfaces are required to meet OSU Heat Release,” he says. “In the past, we only flame-treated our materials through a post-manufacturing secondary FR process, which presented many challenges when our product was used in various composite build-ups. We’ve since developed new manufacturing procedures that incorporate the flame retardants right into the manufacturing process. It’s made the material very flame-resistant and stable.
“This new specification has also made it possible to incorporate Ultraleather into composite combinations: on thermoplastics and honeycomb composites, for example. The customer can now use their adhesive of choice, without dependency on water-based adhesives.”
The test O’Brien refers to is FAR 65/65, which governs vertical surfaces and has stringent heat-emissions and smoke-emissions limits. “FAR 65/65 specifications may not work for all combinations of materials,” he says. “If the product did not go through the proper treatments for FAR 65/65, then it limits the combinations it can be used for. We can treat the baseline product appropriately so that the 65/65 passes, in the combination of materials intended, with fewer limitations.
This new material specification resulted from solving a common problem, and, according to Tapis, it represents an important step forward for materials flammability options. However, it would never have happened without the willingness of others to try something different, and to stick with the program through the flammability challenges until a solution was found. Test failures can be a catalyst for innovation, rather than the end of it.