Continuous innovation in the production systems of new materials has finally allowed the installation of the first plant to produce carbon fiber for aircraft construction in our country thanks to a joint project among CNR, Leonardo, Aviorec, and Invitalia.

On October the 18th,2023, Mae, a global leader in the construction of plants for the production of complex chemical fibers, inaugurated the first Italian demonstration plant for the production of carbon fiber, resulting from the activities pertaining the research and development project Lampo (Leonardo Automated Manufacturing Process for Composite).

The plant is located in Fiorenzuola, at the “Galileo” design and testing center. The Lampo project is made possible thanks to the strategic collaboration with Leonardo, the participation of Aviorec, the involvement of the Cnr, the National Research Council, and the financial support of Invitalia, with which Mae was able to create the first experimental production line of carbon fiber in Italy.

Until now, Italy imported carbon fiber mainly from China and Japan. The research and development project involves total investments of 42 million euros, of which 9.1 million are awarded to Mae. It is financed through the Development Contract with resources made available by Mimit from the 2014-2020 Development and Cohesion Fund. The benefits granted by the Agency, in the form of a non-repayable contribution, amount to 26 million euros, of which 6.5 for Mae.

Furthermore, the “Galileo” testing center in Fiorenzuola required an investment of a further 17 million euros by Mae.

Thanks to this project, the foundations have been laid for producing carbon coils in our country, which can be used for the civil aerospace and automotive industries, as well as in the energy field, representing a notable strategic advantage for the Italian system, country among the largest consumers and processors of carbon fiber in the world.

The main objective of the research and development project is to test a potential production model by implementing automatic systems for detecting and correcting defects likely occurring during manufacturing operations of composite materials based on polymers and fiber carbon; thus effectively making them better performing.

Mae developed optimized chemical recipes, also comprising the recovery of 99.5% of the solvents used in the processes and guaranteeing advanced performance in the aerospace sector.

Automation of traditional composite processing phases

In the aeronautical sector, composite constitutes the entire aircraft structure (fuselage, wings, tail stabilizer). Transforming the traditional manual production phases of composite materials’ components into automatic processes, in particular for horizontal and vertical stabilizers, is the goal of the LAMPO project. The stabilizers are essential components of aircraft, and the process automation is crucial for improving efficiency and quality in aircraft manufacturing. Furthermore, the project enables the development of new technologies for the automated repair of composites, thus reducing time and improving accuracy.

The scientific research and the industry: a virtuous collaboration

The Lampo project exemplifies virtuous collaboration between the research and the industrial worlds. The Cnr Institutes are committed to responding to the industrial world’s requirements by applying their know-how in this specific sector towards identifying the particular needs of the production systems and proposing customized solutions. Aviorec, Leonardo, and Mae have shown confidence in the potential of research, and this foresight is already showing its fruits.

Ettore Stella, scientific coordinator of the project for DIITET, stated on this milestone: “The inauguration of the Galileo Plant marks a significant step forward in the composite materials industry. These advances improve aircraft performance and make the production supply-chain more resilient to geopolitical shocks, also demonstrating the potential of scientific and industrial collaboration to driving innovation in the Italian and global aviation sector.”