Static test of a variable stiffness thermoplastic composite wingbox under shear, bending and torsion

G. Zucco, V. Oliveri, M. Rouhi, R. Telford, G. Clancy, C. McHale, R. O'Higgins, T. M. Young, P. M. Weaver, D. Peeters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
163 Downloads (Pure)


Automated manufacturing of thermoplastic composites has found increased interest in aerospace applications over the past three decades because of its great potential in low-cost, high rate, repeatable production of high performance composite structures. Experimental validation is a key element in the development of structures made using this emerging technology. In this work, a mm variable-stiffness unitised integrated-stiffener out-of-autoclave thermoplastic composite wingbox is tested for a combined shear-bending-torsion induced buckling load. The wingbox is manufactured by in-situ consolidation using a laser-assisted automated tape placement technique. It is made and tested as a demonstrator section located at 85% of the wing semi-span of a B-737/A320 sized aircraft. A bespoke in-house test rig and two aluminium dummy wingboxes are also designed and manufactured for testing the wingbox assembly which spans more than 3m. Prior to testing, the wingbox assembly and the test rig were analysed using a high fidelity finite element method to minimise the failure risk due to the applied load case. The experimental test results of the wingbox are also compared with the predictions made by a numerical study performed by nonlinear finite element analysis showing less than 5% difference in load-displacement behaviour and buckling load and full agreement in predicting the buckling mode shape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-666
Number of pages32
JournalAeronautical Journal
Issue number1275
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Buckling
  • Composite wingbox
  • Testing
  • Thermoplastic
  • Tow steering
  • Variable stiffness


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