The IRT Saint Exupery is producing a series of web and video interviews dedicated to its academic & industrial members. Their high level skills and unique know-how, combined with the skills of IRT employees, make a major contribution to the growing maturity of the results obtained.
Interview with Pierre-André Baudart, Technical Director of ArianeGroup, member of the IRT Saint Exupery on INNOVATIVE ASSEMBLIES 1 & 2, COMPINOVTP & LASER projects.
Can you tell us a few words about ArianeGroup?
ArianeGroup is the European leader in space and satellite launchers. Formerly Airbus Safran Launchers, ArianeGroup is a joint-venture created by Airbus and Safran in 2012. From orbital propulsion to high-performance devices and equipment, ArianeGroup covers all needs related to the transportation of satellites and space vehicles.
Can you give us a brief overview of the Innovative Assemblies 2 project?
The project aims to define the capability of different assembly technologies and among them plasma and laser surface preparation processes for bonded assemblies. This will enable to increase their robustness and develop specific industrial processes that will allow to control performance, increase quality and reduce manufacturing costs.
Why this collaboration?
In the field of space launchers, we use a large number of assemblies of all types, particularly bonded assemblies. This subject has historically been dealt with empirical approaches within ArianeGroup. We therefore felt it was essential to bring basic research and technological research closer together in order to make progress in this field.
In the case of bonded assemblies, it involves the preparation of surfaces to match the chemical composition of what is brought into contact with them, such as the adhesive. With IRT Saint Exupéry, we are working on surface preparation by laser and plasma in order to improve the reliability and costs of these assemblies. The aim of laser surface preparation work is to understand laser/material interactions and to search for the right parameters to achieve optimal surface conditions for bonding.
In plasma surface preparation, we activate the surfaces and seed the plasma with molecules that improve the reactivity of the surface for better bonding. These works have shown very interesting results and have been expanded now in production.
We are also working with the IRT Saint Exupéry on more original assembly methods, in particular to optimize bonds between composite and metallic materials or on metal additive manufacturing based technologies.
What were the strong points of this collaboration with the IRT Saint Exupéry?
ArianeGroup quickly saw strong potential in the IRT model. Its positioning at an advanced technological level allows us to achieve a pre-industrialization result. Reaching this adequate technological maturity, generally referred to as the death valley of innovation, is necessary for industrialization and production start-up.
The projects with IRT Saint Exupéry and the collaboration with the Academic Members (allowing to move from TRL 3 to 6) must provide an industrial response while relying on the best skills of the various project members in the target fields as well as the cross-disciplinary approach necessary for engineering problems.