'Sustainable' Process Introduced for Composite Aerostructures

July 11, 2012
Spirit AeroSystems Inc., a manufacturer of composite aerostructures, is reporting it has developed a low-cost composite manufacturing process for producing primary wing box parts. Calling it an “innovative out-of-autoclave fabrication process,” the aircraft supplier said it will produce high-tolerance composite integrated parts like primary wing skins and spars with less energy, with a lower capital investment, and lower recurring cost for part production.

Spirit AeroSystems Inc., a manufacturer of composite aerostructures, is reporting it has developed a low-cost composite manufacturing process for producing primary wing box parts. Calling it an “innovative out-of-autoclave fabrication process,” the aircraft supplier said it will produce high-tolerance composite integrated parts like primary wing skins and spars with less energy, with a lower capital investment, and lower recurring cost for part production.

"This is a crucial milestone in our quest to deliver to our OEM customers a composite production system capable of coping with next-generation aerostructures' high production rates, with more balanced and sustainable technology," said Marcello Grassi, Spirit AeroSystems Europe’s head of technology.

The company displayed a composite integrated wing cover produced by the new process at the Farnborough 2012 Air Show, in England this week. Spirit has been collaborating with its aircraft OEM customers on various government-supported R&D programs, including Next Generation Composite Wing (NGCW), I-Composites Grand Challenge, and Rapid Technology Evolution (RATE).

Spirit’s Shadow Works European division developed the new process at its Composite Development Centre operation, in Prestwick, Scotland. "Working closely with the U.K. and Scottish governments, as well as the trade association ADS, we have developed a reliable R&D and technology plan to allow us to get closer to our customer product strategy and its future requirements,” according to Neil McManus, vice president and managing director of Spirit AeroSystems Europe.

Spirit AeroSystems is headquartered in Wichita, and has operations in Tulsa and McAlester, Okla.; and Kinston, N.C., where it produces fuselages, pylons, nacelles, and wing components. The group also operates in England, France, and Malaysia, and supplies aftermarket spare parts, maintenance/repair/overhaul, and fleet support services for aircraft OEMs, including Airbus.

"We operate in a highly competitive market,” McManus continued. “By developing design and manufacturing technologies capable of reducing factory footprint, capital equipment costs, as well as production costs by way of integrating technologies into a smart product solution gives us a tremendous platform upon which we can execute our mission and achieve our objectives to be the design build partner of choice."

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)