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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Volta Volare, ElectriPlast Eye Composite Materials for Avionics

Woodrow Bellamy III

Private aircraft manufacturer Volta Volaré and its partners are researching the possibilities of bringing hybrid composite materials to cockpit avionics.

Volta Volaré, which earlier this year launched the four-seat, GT4 hybrid electric private aircraft, is teaming up with ElectriPlast Corp., a Fort Washington, Pa.-based manufacturer of non-corrosive, electrically conductive resin-based materials, for the research and development of hybrid composites and advanced lightweight materials for the avionics of the aircraft.

“Composite materials are rapidly changing the face of aviation and are becoming generally accepted by the industry for the various benefits they provide in terms of structural integrity, weight reduction and performance. Our GT4 is made entirely of carbon fiber. ElectriPlast is unique among these materials in that it is designed for specific applications such as electromagnetic shielding and electronics systems applications. So ElectriPlast may be one of many composites to shape avionics in the future,” said Paul Peterson, CEO of Volta Volaré, which is based in Portland, Ore.

Portland-based Watson Avionics supplied the avionics suite for the original GT4, which retails for $495,000. Peterson said there are currently several GT4 aircraft -- with internal combustion engines -- in private operation. Volta Volare is currently working on a version of the GT4 with a hybrid engine, which the company expect to start test flying later this year.

The companies are still in the early stages of their partnership, but said they believe replacing traditional steel and aluminum aircraft components with ElectriPlast could reduce weight up to 50 to 60 percent. Initially, the companies will look at the use of future hybrid composite parts for the avionics onboard the GT4 and other future Volta Volaré aircraft.

“Our GT4 is constructed entirely of carbon fiber composite material so we have a great deal of experience with the adoption of alternative materials. ElectriPlast will be applied to current systems and component parts, which require shielding from electronic or magnetic emissions such as power electronics. This is an area that we see ElectriPlast technology playing a role in lightweighting by replacing traditional metals currently in use,” said Peterson.

According to Peterson, ElectriPlast is currently marketing their hybrid composite aviation products to a number of manufacturers. Several high profile aircraft and aerospace manufacturers have shown some interest, as they are interested weight reduction for their aircraft components.

The properties of ElectriPlast’s composite material –– resistance to corrosion and the ability to withstand harsh environments –– make it attractive to aircraft manufacturers, Peterson said.

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