The microwave oven from Vötsch Industrietechnik GmbH will be used by GKN Aerospace engineers in Munich, Germany. The oven has a working chamber of 7000 litres and a power of 30 kW (a typical household microwave oven has a power output of 900 W).

Currently, the curing process for composite aircraft parts is generally achieved using an autoclave, which is expensive, time consuming and requires a lot of energy. Using microwave technology, only the product is heated and requires cooling; the associated tooling and the oven chamber itself remain cool. This dramatically reduces heating and cooling times, and energy consumption.

According to Phil Grainger, Senior Technical Director and Chief Technologist, GKN Aerospace: "This investment in microwave curing will deliver clear benefits, in the drive for greater process flexibility, reduced manufacturing times, higher rate manufacture and lower energy consumption."

Grainger believes that microwave processing could cut processing times by 50%. GKN is also seeing evidence that energy consumption could be cut by 90%.
 
The challenge for the research engineers at GKN Aerospace in Munich is to turn this potential into industrially ready processes for the next generation of aircraft projects.  
 
GKN Aerospace in Munich has been researching the use of microwaves in composites manufacture as part of a German BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) funded project which also involved German partners from the aerospace and automotive industries.