Laser beam welded structures for a regional aircraft: weight, cost and carbon footprint savings


Laser beam welded structures offer great opportunities for the lightweight design of fuselage structures in order to reduce structural weight for increased fuel efficiency. Our main objective is to validate and demonstrate that laser beam welding (LBW) technology provides the best opportunities in terms of weight reduction, production time and energy consumption for manufacturing aircraft components. To this end, a comparison in terms of energy, process time, cost and carbon footprint is assessed against the ‘conventional’ manufacturing process of riveting, to prove that LBW is actually an environmental friendly process. Manufacturing of a four-stringer stiffened flat subscale component was the case of the present work that was called in the Clean Sky Eco-Design Airframe (EDA) project as the B1 demonstrator (742 mm × 384 mm). The LBW process has been broken down into several sub-processes and activities according to the Activity Based Costing (ABC) methodology and the weight reduction, production time and energy consumption results were compared against the respective of the riveting process. It was proved that for the specific subscale LBW component, it consumes half the energy and can be processed in less than half the time needed (in serial processing of the component) with riveting. Manufacturing of the component with the LBW process (door to door approach) is more environmentally friendly, since it produces 53% less CO2e emissions than the respective riveted process. This is a clear advantage to this manufacturing process in order to assure a sustainable life cycle of the final product.
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