The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the pressing need for modernisation, and the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence and unmanned systems. In the last three years alone, there have been over 174,000 patents filed and granted in the aerospace and defence industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Soldier modernization in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Carbon fibre reinforced polyurethanes.
According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 262,000 patents to analyse innovation intensity for the aerospace and defence industry, there are 180+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.
Carbon fibre reinforced polyurethanes is a key innovation area in soldier modernisation
Carbon fibre reinforced polyurethanes (CFRP) are composite materials that are commonly used in the manufacture of personal protective equipment for the defence and security markets. Advanced composites are developed using both a matrix and a reinforcement material. In CFRP composites, reinforcement is provided by carbon fibres, which enhance the material’s overall strength. As for the matrix, CFRPs typically use a polymer resin like epoxy to bind the reinforcements together and create a solid piece of anti-ballistic material.
GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 60+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of carbon fibre reinforced polyurethanes.
Key players in carbon fibre reinforced polyurethanes – a disruptive innovation in the aerospace and defence industry
‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.
‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.
Patent volumes related to carbon fibre reinforced polyurethanes
Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics
Boeing far outpaces all other competitors in terms of global patent filings regarding carbon fibre reinforced polyurethanes. Boeing has spearheaded various initiatives to recycle and re-purpose CFRP materials from decommissioned airframes and other sources for nearly two decades and has published a number of patents regarding the bonding of carbon fibres and other precursor materials into CFRP for use in airframes. Airbus has also invested heavily into the development and optimisation of CFRP products, having patented several new procedures for the development of prepregs for use as reinforcement materials. Other key patent filers in the aerospace and defence industry include Hexcel, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Modern Meadow and Honeywell International.
Saab was the global leader with regards to patent application diversity, while General Electric and Daher Aerospace followed close behind in second and third place, respectively. With regards to geographic reach, Kolon leads the way, followed closely by Sekisui Chemical and Showa Denko.
As the imperative for modernisation and the threat of high intensity warfare spur growing concern regarding supply chain vulnerability and access to critical materials, the innovations pioneered by major aerospace and defence firms such as Airbus, Boeing, Raytheon and Rolls-Royce will play a key role in optimising production and procurement. Efforts by major companies to streamline the CFRP manufacturing process through recycling, reinforcement and other practices will likely be emulated by smaller firms due to the potential for significant financial savings whilst simultaneously reducing supply chain vulnerabilities.
To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the aerospace and defence industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Defence.