The ultimate Airfix — glue set to be nuts and bolts of ‘real’ aircraft

Airplanes and other big machines may swap nuts and bolts for glue if research at the University of Limerick succeeds in coming up with new technologies to join parts.

The research programme has received €1.35m funding through the Science Foundation Ireland Investigators Programme.

Principal investigator, Dr Conor McCarthy said: “Nuts and bolts have been used for centuries to join safety-critical structures together. However, bolts require holes to be drilled in the assembled parts and this leads to a drastic reduction in their ability to withstand the forces of nature and impacts from everyday use.”

Dr McCarthy said the component-joining industry in Europe is estimated to be worth more than €100bn annually, and it underpins a vast number of industries from aircraft manufacture to medical implants. “Our research is developing an innovative solution to join components together by blending the best elements from bolting and gluing technologies. This novel solution will be reliable, reversible, cheap and efficient and we expect it will underpin the development of virtually every future component composed of different parts and materials,” he said.

The University of Limerick (UL) is considered one of the world’s leading academic institutions on the subject of mechanical fastening of composites, as evidenced by its extensive refereed journal paper output, and book chapters published on the subject. UL has led major EU research projects on ‘joining science’ with top aerospace companies such as Airbus and Bombardier, and is now breaking into the rapidly growing composites automotive sector. The Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI) at UL hosts the Irish Centre for Composites Research (IComp), where state-of-the-art computational and experimental labs have been recently developed to design, manufacture and evaluate mechanically fastened joints for high-performance lightweight composite structures. This project titled Fastener-less Joining Technologies for High Performance Hybrid Composites-Metal Structures has a number of collaborators such as the adhesives manufacturer Henkel, Dr Kevin Ryan, UL and Dr Gerard O’Connor, Director of the National Centre for Laser Applications at NUI Galway.


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