Airbus has decided this technology change from Automatic Tape Laying, currently being used via MTorres Tape Layers, to the latest generation of Automatic Fibre Placement Machines, also developed by MTorres. This change implies a substantial increase in the overall process productivity and a significant material scrap reduction generated in that process. As a result a significant cost savings has been identified by Airbus leading to take this industrial decision, after going thru all technical analysis needed to validate this new technology for its application to these components.
The A350 is an aircraft structurally built in Carbon Fibre. For this purpose, different technologies are used depending on the specific requirements that each component to be manufactured has to comply with. For the laminating process of the pre-impregnated fibre, which is the most common material form used for manufacturing Composite components in aerospace, there are two different technologies. The automated tape laying, ATL technology that automatically laminates tape widths of 150 mm (6”) or 300 mm (12”) and the AFP technology (Automatic Fibre Placement) that simultaneously laminates several pre impregnated material strips slit into a narrow format, normally ½ "and ¼" but also 1/8”.
The development of MTorres latest generation AFP machines, that provide productivity values unprecedented in the industry, has enabled Airbus to perform the analysis of the industrialization advantages of the wing manufacture using this AFP technology versus the originally ATL technology chosen at the program early days. This analysis results have shown clear advantageous business case, paving the way to the technological change.
With this Airbus decision, all main A350 wing components, spars, stringers and skins will be manufactured using AFP technology, and MTorres developed AFP technology.