Commercializing new aerospace materials
Wintersemester 2019 - DLR
This report summarizes the group's activity for the project partner German Aerospace Center (DLR). The two overall goals of the project were to i) develop a market entry strategy for a newly developed fabrication technology for oxide Ceramic Matrix Composites in a specific application field, i.e. the aviation sector and ii) identify new application fields for the material.
Project partner and problem
DLR is one of the major aerospace research facilities in Europe. Towards the development of cleaner, more efficient and economic future aircraft, oxide Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMC) are considered a highly promising alternative for currently used superalloy components and metal parts in most aircraft engines as they are three times lighter and more heat resistant. However, existing fabrication processes for oxide CMC all require unfavorable manual steps during fabrication. To address this problem, a team of engineers at DLR have developed a new, highly automatable fabrication process that is faster and reduces cost. With the ongoing development of the technology, two main questions emerged: how can one enter the highly regulated and competitive aviation market and what other application fields exist for the innovation?
The team was divided into two work groups. The first sub team analyzed the aviation market to identify the best way to leverage the production process and enter the market. In order to do this, it was important to research the existing value chain, supply chain constraints that manufacturers face and market trends. In addition, the feasibility of different market entry strategies and the financial structure of the business entity were analysed. The other sub team focused on identifying new application fields by using the technology competence leveraging method. First, it was necessary to identify the key benefits of the technology. To this end, in depth research and interviews with the founders were conducted. Second, 20 interviews (= pyramiding) and posting in 20 forums (= broadcasting) resulted in new application fields.
With regards to aviation, the first group (called aviation team) identified a licensing partnership with aircraft engine manufacturers to be the best approach, focusing on narrow body airplanes using or competing with the LEAP engine. Additionally, this team created a financial deal structure that would make the long research period and supply chain integration a possibility for the coming decade. It is expected that the technology will be able to tackle 8 years and more than 1 billion euros worth of backlog facing the industry.
The second sub group (called exploration team) identified 20 new potential application fields where 6 of them have been validated through at least 3 interviews naming the same problem-solution fit. After discussing the findings with the sciencepreneurs the sub team focused on two areas: bulletproof vests & oil drilling. For bulletproof vests the material could be used to make the vests lighter but at the same time more resistant against bullets. For the other field it can be a substitute for steel pipes which suffer form structural changes at higher application temperatures. For both fields the market potential, competition and needed adaptions for the technology were analysed.
Dr. Michael Welter