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Fly by wire: Wire cloth mesh in the aerospace industry  

You might be familiar with the use of wire cloth and filters in the food processing, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. But did you know these same materials play an important role in the aerospace field as well? Commercial, military and general aviation aircraft all have wire cloth filters to protect critical systems from contamination.  Premature engine overhauls caused by dirt and debris cost airlines millions in maintenance and lost passenger revenue and hurt military readiness. The role of wire cloth in aerospace engine parts makes flights safer, smoother and quieter.   Here we will look at three categories where wire cloth and filters are critical to safe flight operations, airplane noise reduction and passenger comfort.

Fuel system contamination

Jet engines are susceptible to fuel contamination from airport fuel handling systems and fuel trucks, but there are also contaminants found in an airplane’s own fuel tanks. According to The Boeing Company, individual particulates found on fuel filters are often less than 1 micron in size.

However, these particulates clump together on the filter medium and filter wire screen and eventually cause a fuel bypass condition. This simply means the contaminated fuel is sent directly to the engine since contaminated fuel is better than no fuel at all.

There are four main categories of fuel contaminants found on engine filters.

  • Foreign objects – including paint chips, paper, aluminum chips, composite materials and gasket pieces
  • Clays and rust – generally due to poor airport fuel filtration processes and oxidation in fuel transfer piping or the fueling truck itself
  • Gum-like residues – slimy materials including molds, fungi and oil deposits
  • Unknown – a catchall category for everything else like silicates, sulfates, salts, rag fibers and tank primer
  • Clearly, the wire mesh and wire cloth used in commercial airliner engines are key to preventing engine damage.

Sound suppression

There are two main objectives for noise reduction efforts on commercial airplanes: meeting increasingly stringent airport regulatory requirements and passenger comfort. Airplane noise is broken down into two categories: engine noise and airframe noise. Aerodynamic changes to engine nacelles is one way to achieve noise reduction, but wire mesh inside the nacelle is another.

The inner panel skins in contact with engine airflow are a wire mesh filled with thousands of holes, typically 0.04 inch in diameter. These help dampen jet engine noise by directing sound into the panel’s honeycomb core, rather than presenting a solid surface that simply deflects sound.

Landing gear noise is also a problem during takeoff and landing – exactly where sound suppression is needed the most. Wire mesh screens have been tested and results demonstrate significant advantages compared to other covers in reducing aerodynamically generated landing gear noise.

Internal air quality

Air quality during commercial flights is important not only for health and safety reasons, but also because it improves the passenger’s in-flight experience. Passengers and crews flying at high altitudes breathe recirculated, pressurized air on increasingly longer flights. Newer composite airplanes like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 allow for higher cabin humidity levels, further increasing the need for filtration. Wire cloth in air filters help eliminate irritating contaminants like these

  • Fuel byproducts
  • Cleaning agents
  • Odors and ozone
  • Airborne particulates including dust and sand
  • Allergens, fungi, bacteria and viruses
  • Cosmetics and other personal care products

Summary

Wire cloth and filters are integral parts of the aerospace industry, commercial air travel and military aviation by removing contaminates from critical systems.

  • They filter fuel for airplane engines, auxiliary power units and clean hydraulic systems
  • They improve cabin air quality and reduce noise

Newark Wire Cloth is a recognized leader in the wire cloth manufacturing industry, creating off-the-shelf and custom woven wire cloth for any and every application. It has specialized in the fabrication of wire cloth parts and assemblies for the past 105 years. Contact them today to discuss how wire cloth can help improve the quality and efficiency of your next filtration project or application.