Aerospace, yacht and motor racing designers use the phrase ‘Build lightness into your design’. Our honeycomb sandwich enables a designer to do just that. The honeycomb form provides stiffness, strength and light weight, whilst still offering a degree of flexibility. The technical terms for this are ‘high out-of-plane shear strength’ and ‘high out-of-plane compression properties’ in relation to other design options.
Besides aerospace, yacht, ship and motor sport, the outstanding performance that this structural design offers is used wherever there lightweight but strong bulkheads, doors and partitions are needed. Low cost, low weight interior doors are made from a simple wooden frame, cardboard honeycomb and wood veneers.
In the trucking industry, using honeycomb material in a 53’ trailer can reduce its weight by almost 1.5 tons, saving over 1% in fuel costs.
Metal honeycomb offers safety features too. Explosion-proof fuel tanks have used metal honeycomb.
The first recorded use for industrial honeycomb in a sandwich structure was in 1915 by Hugo Junkers who founded the German airplane company of that name. In 1938 an adhesive with the right viscosity to form resin fillets on the honeycomb core was patented. This led the way to modern sandwich panel designs.
When you look at honeycomb core , it looks as if it might be difficult to fabricate, but there are three main methods in use today: expansion, corrugation and molding. The three materials most commonly used are thermoplastics, paper/aramid and a variety of metals including aluminium, stainless steel and even titanium.
Molding is probably the simplest to envision (and make at home), best suited to thermoplastics. Thermoplastics can also be extruded as pipes and sliced, and the latest technique offers continuous extrusion and bonding to a sheet – co-extrusion.
Expansion is simple too. Sheets of the material are laid down with lines of adhesive between them. When the adhesive has cured, the block (known as HOBE – honeycomb before extraction) is sliced and the sheets are pulled apart, resulting in the honeycomb. Think of an expanding paper chain – that’s the basic principle. Instead of lines of adhesive, welds can be used for metals sheets.