As the aircraft MRO industry continues to grow, research revolves around developing technological advancements that reduce labor costs, improve structural durability, reduce replacement rates and lower acquisition costs. This paper discusses the feasibility of introducing self-healing technology to the aircraft MRO market by analyzing both quantitative and qualitative measures such as trends, market insight, market demand, market size, market growth, the potential impact on market and success rates through laboratory testing. Furthermore, potentials threats to market entry are identified.

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Threats to market entry revolve around technological barriers, FAA approval and improving continuous maintenance capabilities. Lastly, the paper explores what strategies are needed to make entry into the market successful. The success of self-healing technologies in the aircraft MRO market revolves around developing a business strategy that focuses on licensing potential and manufacturing processing. By developing strategies with a focus on licensing and production, companies can vet out any potential problems and reduce the potential for loss.

The maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) segmentation for the aerospace industry is expected to continue to grow throughout 2026. Currently, ICF International estimates that the aircraft MRO market is worth $67.6 billion globally (Berger, 2017). Key drivers and demands pushing the MRO industry is the need to improve structural durability and reducing costs associated with aircraft replacement and operations (Stickler, 2002). As carriers in both the civil and commercial sectors explore ways to make aircraft maintenance more streamlined and efficient, technology is being utilized to discover ways to improve the process. Of the recent technological developments currently in the research phase, self-healing technology has the most potential to reduce labor cost, extend aircrafts’ life span and reduce aircraft downtime (Stickler, 2002). Determining the potential of self-healing technology disrupting the aircraft MRO market highly depends on whether self-healing is a feasible solution to the demands of the market. Accessing market feasibility is determined by proving a need through examining qualitative and quantitative data as well as potential threats to market entry and relevant success factors.

To determine the market feasibility of self-healing technology in the aerospace industry, one must first determine the market in which the technology is most applicable. Because self-healing technology deals with the autonomous repair upon the detection of damage, it is safe to assume that self-healing technology will affect the aircraft MRO market heavily. Exploring the feasibility of self-healing technology in the aircraft MRO market is determined by conducting a market analysis that focuses on trends, insights and demands of consumers in that space. Next, one must determine if, statistically, self-healing technology could meet those demands through impact potential and success rate during testing.

Qualitative data used to determine market feasibility revolves around the trends, insights and demands of the industry. Current predictions in the space believe that the aircraft MRO market will be worth well over $100 billion by 2026 with an estimated 4.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) (Berger, 2017). Moreover, most of the revenue is estimated to come from the maintenance, repair and acquisition of aircraft engines and other structural components (Berger, 2017). In addition to overall revenue growth in the industry, aircraft fleet is also expected to rise globally. In 2016, there were 27,957 aircrafts in the commercial sector alone with a growth rate of 3.4% annually between 2017 and 2026 (Berger, 2017). Current trends in the aircraft MRO industry likely to drive the need for innovative technology, such as self-healing composites, include the OEM production backlog continuing to increase and rising costs associated with labor and MRO agreements (Berger, 2017). Furthermore, demands to replace or repair aging aircrafts and to cut labor costs are likely to drive the need for self-healing technologies (Berger, 2017). Other means of measurement to determine market feasibility revolve around the cost for self-healing material, which has yet to be determined.

On a quantitative scale, market feasibility is accessed by statistical information regarding performance data and success rate during testing. Aircrafts are highly made of complex composite materials, therefore, many applications of self-healing regarding aircraft maintenance involve the testing and developing of epoxy resin, a healing agent, in the composite material during the manufacturing process (Celik, 2017). Since self-healing technology in the aerospace industry is still in its early stages of development, limited research on its possible impact to the aircraft MRO market is available (Celik, 2017). However, early predictions estimate that the use of self-healing composites could decrease the weight of aircrafts by nearly 20% (Celik, 2017). Additionally, current and past research has shown a success rate of nearly 100% in laboratory settings (Celik, 2017).

Although self-healing has the potential to disrupt the entire aircraft MRO market, there are some potential threats that could hinder the introduction of self-healing technology. The current threats to market entry include technological barriers, FAA approval and improving continuous maintenance capabilities (Roy, Stark, Tracht, Takata & Mori, 2016, p. 678). Throughout the research and development stage, it has been found that self-healing technologies can be applied to materials, electronic components and software. Because of this, much testing is still needed for verification and validation of sensors, which continues to be a major challenge (Roy et al., 2016, p. 678). In addition to the technological barriers still faced by researchers, standards and techniques to determine quality standards for FAA certification purposes have yet to be developed (Roy et al., 2016, p. 678). After these components have been addressed, there will still be the need to have the FAA approve newly developed self-healing technologies, which can take approximately four years (Tsinberg, 2008).

The successful introduction of self-healing technologies to the aircraft MRO market depends on developing a business model based on two factors: (1.) intellectual property licensing and (2.) manufacturing processing (Tsinberg, 2008). Licensing can be favorable because it allows the possibility to gain revenue from signed agreements and possibly expedite the entry into the market (Tsinberg, 2008). However, it is important to note that for licensing to be successful, clear terms of what is being licensed should be drawn. The main concern should be that all agreements allow for ownership to be maintained (Tsinberg, 2008). Furthermore, the manufacturing process is essential in entering the aircraft MRO market. Fully vetting how these technologies will be manufactured and logistic strategies are necessary to reduce loss (Tsinberg, 2008).

Current research of self-healing technologies is focused on improving aircraft maintenance through the developing self-healing capabilities through composite materials, robotics, and software (Tsinberg, 2008). Feasibility studies show that self-healing technology would be beneficial to the aircraft MRO market because of demands to cut labor costs and to reduce further spending due to aircraft acquisition as a result of an aging fleet. Although research is still in the early development stage, evidence shows a 100% success rate in laboratory settings. Before self-healing technology enters the market, technological barriers of self-healing capabilities need to be addressed, along with preparing for the FAA certification process. Additionally, a complete business strategy revolving around the licensing and manufacturing process must be in place in order for market entry to be successful.