Aeronautics
11.12.2006
Airbus is looking for a new supplier profile, as Pedro Muñoz Esquer, part of the Management team of Airbus España, declared during the course of the “Sexta Conferencia Heraclio Alfaro” (Sixth Heraclio Alfaro Conference), organised by the Colegio de Ingenieros Aeronáuticos de España (Spain’s Aeronautical Engineering School) in Vitoria. This new profile would correspond to a series of industrial members, traction companies which, at the same time, would be the ones that directly hire other SMEs, aiming to considerably reduce the number of interlocutors in the programmes.

Muñoz declared that the consortium is only interested in establishing relationships with traction companies, like MTorres, who are at the top of the offers and are capable of contributing added value to the product and he encouraged the sector component manufacturers to establish allies in order to beat competition. He pointed out that, “Countries like Morocco and China need to attract more investments and so they are going to manufacture things more cheaply than us. What we need for the next ten years are companies that contribute added value and the rest of them will be subsidiary ones.”

The new rules of the aeronautical game are going to require groups with sufficient entity being formed, which will collaborate on calculus engineering, design and manufacturing, are capable of providing complete collections, and have entity to share financial risks, an option that would be more appropriate for large industrial corporations or for supplier alliances. Muñoz stated that “The technology should not only be in the one main company; rather it should be shared out amongst all of them.

”In the Sixth Heraclio Alfaro Conference, Pedro Muñoz pointed out some of the radical changes that the sector will experience in the forthcoming years. With the title “The contribution of composite materials to 21st Century aeroplanes”, the speaker highlighted the important role of the Spanish industry regarding these materials, whose use improves the resistance and weight of aircrafts, as well as the flexibility of design, dimensional stability, corrosion resistance and also reduces the number of implements used in its manufacture.

Alter reviewing the development and the use of carbon fibre in recent years, the director of Airbus España attributes the Spanish sector’s specialization in this type of material to work already carried out by the Spanish industry in the field of glued structures for Fokker, as well as to the contribution of specific numeric control machinery from the Navarre company MTorres, one of the only three existing manufacturers in the world dedicated to producing equipment for the treatment of these materials.

As Muñoz pointed out, the use of carbon fibre in Airbus aeroplanes has progressively increased in the last decade. Presently, between 12 and 13 per cent of an aeroplane is made using composites but the aim is that by the year 2010, at least 35 per cent will be made from this type of material and the new model A350 XWB will even contain up to 40 per cent. In this sense, he stressed that section 19 of the A350 will have composite fuselage in one single part.

In order to resolve the challenges that carbon fibre materials present us with, numerous other challenges will have to be solved beforehand, one of them that he pointed out being new curing systems “which both us and our suppliers will have to look for equally”, and find new textile products so that the manufacturers will take care of making the preforms that we can later implement. He concluded that, “The leadership of aeronautics of the future is in engineering and composite materials.”