16 Nov Structural assembly at Airbus
Structural mechanics on the FAL A380
To further increase efficiency, aircraft manufacturers are also increasingly relying on automation and digitalization. A pioneer in this area is Airbus, one of the largest aircraft manufacturers in the world. The projects of our colleagues at the customer’s sites are diverse and varied.
On the Airbus A380, for example, aircraft components were too thinly dimensioned, leading to structural problems during the test flight. It was therefore necessary for one of our project teams in Toulouse to carry out a modification. The skin field (skin repair) of the affected components had to be replaced. This presented a considerable challenge, as the project work had to be carried out during the ongoing final assembly process. After the rebuild and further test flights, additional project work arose – the structural team replaced seat rails that had cracked after the test flight, changed defective air-conditioning pipes, valves and floor panels. Residual work that could not be completed in Hamburg, such as the installation of waste water and fresh water pipes, as well as the installation of floor panels, was also taken over by the ARTS team in Toulouse.
Carbon fiber (CFRP) composites area
ARTS colleagues are also at work in Stade, the research center for carbon fiber (CFRP) composite materials. The vertical stabilizers for the entire Airbus fleet are produced there in automated work steps. Since the vertical stabilizers are made entirely of CFRP, structural experts in CFRP technology are essential. Structural work using the CFRP material is also applied to the repair work on the floor panels in Toulouse, which are partly made of CFRP. The composite material achieves high stiffness while maintaining a low mass. For this reason, it also behaves very differently from metal during processing, so that CFRP experts have to use special working and repair techniques to avoid damaging the lamination.
Structural assembly and quality management on the Airbus A350 in Hamburg
On the A350, there are many automated steps within the production: among others, a semi-automatic drilling machine (ADU’s, automatic drill unit) is used in Hamburg, which drills special and soon to be 3D printed brackets to the desired position. Whether drilling small or large holes, with the ADU they are almost perfect. The brackets, which are the connecting element between the individual aircraft sections, were attached to the CFRP structure by our project team using a two-component adhesive. It is the composite material that allows the holders to be bonded. One advantage of bonding is that the structure is not weakened and there is no corrosion. The brackets are essential to aircraft production because they offer the advantage of not having countless people working on a section, allowing for faster aircraft production.
Our experts are also responsible for entering all project orders into the SAP system “Shop-Floor Interface”. This is an essential process step to verify that all guidelines are being followed. Complaints are also accurately logged in the SAP system. To ensure the standards of the service provided, such as the attachment of the holders, our in-house inspectors also check the drill holes using a limit plug gauge.
Teamwork and lean management in the aviation industry
Each colleague is responsible for his or her work package, but all employees have the common goal in mind – to complete the aircraft on time. Teamwork allows employees to access knowledge from other colleagues when questions and problems arise and to complete the work order on time.
At Airbus – but also at ARTS – lean management is a top priority. Work materials are in their designated place and everyone knows where the tool and material they are looking for is located. Waste is thus prevented and the workflow is easier.
ARTS expert teams are in action worldwide
Our aerostructure experts are working on projects worldwide for well-known MRO companies, airlines, suppliers and manufacturers such as Airbus. The individually set up project teams provide support with their expertise not only in structural assembly, but also in mechanical and electrical equipment and fittings, as well as in carrying out repair work. In the Avionics, Systems and Airframe manufacturing and MRO divisions, they implement service bulletin installations, such as the door modification on the Airbus A380, or aircraft upgrade projects, such as the replacement of seat rails on the A330 and A380.