Investigating the impact of sustainability in the production of aeronautical subscale components


The aim of this paper is to investigate the impact of sustainability aspects in the production of aeronautical subscale components by comparing the traditional riveted versus the innovative Laser Beam Welding (LBW) process in industrial conditions. We adopt a quantitative assessment methodology for both processes, by taking into account a series of manufacturing scenarios with six multi-dimensional aeronautical subscale components in different annual production rates (mass production). The results reveal that the exploitation of the LBW technology can provide weight savings up to 28%, by exploiting lower density AlCuLi alloys, while the time savings during the manufacturing process can be up to 67%. Furthermore, the total manufacturing cost of the LBW process can be reduced up to 40% for the case of long structures, when compared to the corresponding riveted structures. In terms of environmental friendliness, the LBW process results to increased CO2e emissions by 124% during the manufacturing process when compared to the riveting process. However, this difference is lower than 60% when longer structures with smaller count of stringers are used. Finally, despite the high carbon footprint emission during the manufacturing phase, when the life cycle of aircrafts is assessed, the LBW joining process can contribute to lighter components, resulting to less weighted aircrafts whose engines consume less fuel, contributing in that way to energy and GHG emissions reductions.
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