Development of efficient design and manufacturing methods of propellers for eVTOL and general aviation using innovative tailored NCF

Where are the industrial challenges in the implementation of these UAM concepts and what contributions can the excellent top-level research and industry from Aachen and the surrounding area make?

This is the question where pro.EVOLUTION research and development project comes in, launched in October 2021 by FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences, Fibraworks GmbH and Helix-Carbon GmbH. 

 As part of the two-year project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection (BMWi) through the Central Innovation Program for SMEs (ZIM) with more than €500,000, the partners involved are looking at innovative and cost-efficient propellers and their manufacture. The researchers and engineers from Aachen want to take a holistic approach to developing high-performance propellers for electrically powered air taxis so that they can fly more efficiently and economically in the future and, above all, be built in large quantities. Based on new lightweight materials, such as customized carbon fiber-reinforced plastics and their semi-finished products, digital software tools and calculation methods, as well as new scalable manufacturing processes, an innovative, high-performance propeller “Made in Aachen” is to be developed for so-called eVTOL aircrafts (electrical Vertical Take-Off and Landing), i.e. electrically powered, vertically taking off and landing air taxis and drones. 

The consortia for the ambitious cooperation project pro.EVOLUTION is no coincidence. The initiators of the project, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Tobias Weber (FH Aachen), Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Nikolaus von Kummer (Helix- Carbon) and Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Lars Linnemann (Fibraworks) are all engineers with an affinity for aviation who are aware of the strengths of the Aachen region in the field of lightweight technologies.

The pro.EVOLUTION-Team: Lars Linnemann & Konrad Dziamski (Fibraworks GmbH), Nikolaus von Kummer (Helix-Carbon GmbH), Tobias Weber & Rico Hubert (FH Aachen)
Fotocredit: Gerold Keck

In the project, the partners are specifically bundling decisive competencies and expertise along the value chain for propeller production in the Aachen region. To transfer composite propeller production to large-volume series production, a new holistic process is to be developed using an existing eVTOL propeller as an example. This includes both the development of customized composite semi-finished products, new tailored textiles products and propeller manufacturing processes, as well as the digitalization of empirical composite component manufacturing. 

The project partners also aim to reduce component costs for eVTOL propellers and scale up propeller production at the world market leader Helix-Carbon GmbH at the Aachen-Merzbrück research airfield. At the same time, the aim is to optimize propeller design for greater efficiency and better efficiencies. In this context, the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Aachen University of Applied Sciences is developing a software tool that helps to carry out the necessary design of the propeller and the tailoring of the textile fabrics. The startup Fibraworks GmbH, based in Roetgen, is responsible for developing and manufacturing the customized semi-finished fiber products. Their innovative and patented winding process will produce so-called multiaxial Tailored Non-Crimp Fabrics (T-NCF) for use in the eVTOL propellers, which will help to optimize the production of the propellers in terms of costs, quantities, and properties. 

In summary, pro.EVOLUTION makes a decisive contribution to being able to manufacture and further process customized fiber composite materials in highly efficient and cost-effective processes. In this way, lightweight construction is not only consolidated in the UAM sector but made accessible to a broader range of applications and at the same time supports the further development of novel, climate-friendly mobility concepts with propellers “Made in Aachen”. 


Project data

Running time: 10/2021 – 09/2023
Project form: Zentrales Innovationsprogramm Mittelstand
Project type: FuE-Kooperationsprojekt
Funding indicator: KK5287001KT1
Funding amount: 119.030 €
Promoter: Aif Projekt GmbH