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Thinking ahead in aerospace filtration

11 Jun 2018

Jonathan Newell, of Aerospace Test and Validation magazine, talks to Andy Cowan of Porvair Filtration Group about the challenges of meeting future aviation filtration requirements. 

The aerospace industry is changing a lot. Aircraft are being manufactured in higher quantities and both engine and cabin technology is evolving rapidly. However, the long lead times associated with lengthy certification programmes for aviation threatens to put the brakes on such rapid development. 

However, filtration specialist Porvair doesn’t believe that this should necessarily be the case. I spoke to the company’s Business Manager for Aerospace, Andy Cowan about how the company sees future developments in the industry and how it manages to stay ahead of the game. 

According to Cowan, the key to success is working closely with the industry to make sure that Porvair’s development efforts fall in line with future requirements. With development cycles for engines and airframes being squeezed all the time, there’s no alternative to starting work on new products at the very earliest stages. 

Porvair focuses on new materials and manufacturing methods and applies them to future requirements. “We take ideas from the other industries that we work in, such as medical, automotive and nuclear industries, and apply it to the aerospace industry,” Cowan says. 

Life testing plans 

He went on to explain that a key aspect of this is the development of a test plan for new materials, new processes and design concepts. An example is a coating that may be applied to a filtration product in the automotive industry, which would need to go through a qualification cycle for use in aviation. With such qualification lead times being so long, it is very important to think ahead and start he tasks necessary for qualification as soon as possible. 

“An example is simulated operational endurance, there are a lot of complex factors to consider about how products behave in different environments and combinations of conditions,” he explains. 

Accelerated life testing can only be performed with a certain degree of acceleration and so products spend a lengthy time on test and the reduction of this testing lead time is one of the major challenges of the industry. 

According to Cowan, much of the product testing is done in-house using Porvair’s own established facilities, which include thermal cycling chambers and fluid compatibility testing equipment. However, the company also works with its customers on prototyping projects to simulate the full environmental conditions that the product will be exposed to. 

These tests are performed at different levels. It isn’t enough to simply test the filter unit on its own. It should also undergo environmental testing at sub-assembly, full assembly and system levels as well. 

New Generation Filters 

Porvair is working now on filtration systems to meet future aviation needs. As Cowan says, “Customers want products to be cheaper, less expensive to operate and which provide greater through-life cost effectiveness by removing more contamination from the system that might cause other failures or degradation.” Such higher specification filters provide better system availability. 

Porvair is also working on cabin air filtration for Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) and low temperature ozone removal to provide a more comfortable environment for both passengers and crew. To verify this new type of product, Porvair has installed test facilities for verifying the efficiency of VOC and ozone removal.

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