Airbus has begun joining the A350 XWB’s 65-foot-long center fuselage with its 69-foot-long front fuselage in Toulouse, marking the official start of the mostly composite airplane’s final assembly, the European manufacturer announced today.
Carbon fiber-reinforced polymer
In a large building in Belfast near where thousands of hard-working laborers hammered thick steel plates to massive ribs and fittings using thumb-size rivets to build the Titanic, Bombardier Aerospace is carving its own advanced technology niche, building wings for new aircraft models almost entirely from composite materials.
Boeing’s difficulties in outsourcing sections of the 787 Dreamliner are well documented. From that troubling experience, however, an opportunity was born in the U.S. state of Washington, once the undisputed home of Boeing commercial airliner programs.
One of the big changes when Airbus unveiled its market-driven XWB revamp of the A350 back in May 2007 was the new structural concept: a fuselage constructed of 12 panels of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) mounted on frames of aluminum-lithium alloy.
In a large building in Belfast very near where thousands of laborers hammered thick steel plates to massive ribs and fittings using thumb-size rivets to build the ill-fated Titanic ocean liner, Bombardier Aerospace is carving out its own advanced technology niche, building wings for new aircraft models almost entirely from composite materials.
Airbus has started making parts for the A350 XWB in Germany, the company announced today. Tom Enders, Airbus president and CEO, Gerald Weber, Airbus Germany executive vice president of operations and chairman of the board of management, and Peter Hintze, Parliamentary state secretary and German government aerospace coordinator, hosted a ceremony marking the event at the company's production plant in Stade.
German aerostructures specialist Premium Aerotec (Hall 1 Stand E197) has signed a contract with Airbus to provide the fuselage structure for the European manufacturer’s new A350XWB. The structures are for the floor and aft pressure bulkhead, adding to existing work it has to build forward section elements and aft side shells. The work is worth a total of approximately $500 million, said the EADS subsidiary.
Complex materials, made of carbon fiber composites and a metal, are tricky to characterize. “We already know that titanium is a better match than aluminum with carbon fiber,” research coordinator Benoît Sagot-Duvauroux said. But now researchers are endeavoring to put numbers on corrosion and dilatation issues, for example. Simulation of real-world operating conditions is the key to success in this work.
Manufacturers are relying more on composite materials for business aircraft construction thanks to a drop in manufacturing costs and better automation. Largely because of improved curing processes, OEMs are gradually eliminating expensive tooling and slashing the overall number of parts needed for a given aerostructure.
EADS Socata (Booth No. 3871) has started exploring a liquid-resin infusion (LRI) process for composite fuselage construction. The French company this month launched a $12.5 million, four-year research and development program, dubbed Fuscomp, which eventually is expected to yield a composite fuselage demonstrator. Its current business aircraft offering, the single-turboprop Socata TBM 850, uses mainly metal construction.