Mid-scale demonstrator tool delivered to GKN Aerospace Filton facility

GKN Aerospace has reached a major milestone in the ‘Wing of Tomorrow’ programme after designing, manufacturing, and delivering a mid-scale demonstrator tool.

The tool provides a fully functioning automated low pressure RTM system for the Airbus-led programme’s composite wing spar. The spar is considered one of the most challenging aerospace components to design and manufacture, and this will be one of the first times that RTM technology has been used on this scale.

GKN Aerospace engineers have used proven tool-making knowledge from the automotive industry in developing the demonstrator. The 4-metre development testbed will deliver a rate 60 automated manufacturing solution and significantly improve the productivity of the composite manufacturing process, by removing one third of the production steps involved.

An investment of £24.4 million, which is supported by the UK Aerospace Technology Institute, will result in a high-rate low-cost manufacturing solution and significant weight savings for the wing spar.

Drycomposite fibres are injected with resin

Technology will be moving from traditional, pre-impregnated resin material to drycomposite fibres that are injected with resin as part of the initial manufacturing process for the wing spar. This will result in significant weight savings.

GKN Aerospace is using its capability in design and manufacture of composite Wing Spars and assembly of Fixed Trailing Edges – as proven on the A330, A400M and A350 – to mature the key technologies. The development work will stretch into 2021.

Wing of Tomorrow partnership programme

John Pritchard, GKN Aerospace’s CEO for Aerostructures and Systems Europe and Asia, explained: “We are proud to be a partner of Airbus in the Wing of Tomorrow research programme and excited about the delivery of the mid-size demonstrator tool. This development confirms GKN Aerospace’s world-leading position in not just RTM technology, but also in advanced aerostructures manufacturing. Combined with the Aerospace Technology Institute, which is providing vital support for the UK’s position on the next generation of aircraft, we will be able to deliver breakthroughs in technology as well as benchmark levels of price, quality and repeatability.”

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