Spirit AeroSystems [NYSE: SPR] announced its role on the Airbus Wing of Tomorrow program, contributing across four technology projects supporting commercial aviation applications. Led by efforts at the company's Prestwick, Scotland, site, Spirit will develop solutions essential for the fabrication and assembly of leading edges, wing boxes and lower wing covers.
Seven-Meter Lower Wing Cover Demonstrator During Inspection at the Advanced Forming Research Centre, Strathclyde, U.K.
"Our participation on Wing of Tomorrow marks an important milestone in our support of Airbus," said Spirit Senior Vice President, Airbus Programs, Scott McLarty. "Research and development work like this is key to Spirit's growth strategy, and we are uniquely positioned to offer customers our proven ability to both design and build world class aerostructures such as these."
"Spirit is leveraging its full suite of Distinctive Capabilities to tackle the challenge of improving product performance while lowering cost and compressing technology and product development cycles," said Spirit AeroSystems Vice President, Research and Technology, Sean Black, Ph.D. "To accomplish this feat, the projects rely heavily on modeling and simulation throughout all stages of the design-build process."
For example, on one of the projects, Spirit is using cutting-edge composite resin-flow simulation tools to successfully infuse a seven-meter lower wing cover -- short-circuiting the trial-and-error approach typical for extremely complex resin infusion processes. The demonstrator is a major step towards delivering a full-scale, resin-infused lower cover to Airbus. Spirit continues to leverage and enhance its patented Intelligent Resin Infusion System (IRISTM) to develop lower-cost, higher-performing structures.
"These projects are not just about composite infusion technology," Black said. "Using digital design and manufacturing approaches, we're developing the product in parallel with the production system. In collaboration with the National Composites Centre (Bristol, U.K.) and Advanced Forming Research Centre (Strathclyde, U.K.), we're also developing highly automated fabrication and inspection technologies.
"In addition, we are implementing significant advances in fabrication and assembly tooling technologies. In fact, through applying the Spirit Exact® dimensional management philosophy, which essentially enables the parts themselves to become locating tools, we are planning to deliver a leading edge, to include full systems integration, with very little assembly tooling. We are leveraging our full Distinctive Capability portfolio in support of the Wing of Tomorrow objectives."
The projects supporting Wing of Tomorrow are jointly funded by Spirit and the U.K. Government through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Programme, in close collaboration with Airbus, the National Composites Centre, the Advanced Forming Research Centre and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. The ATI Programme is managed by the Aerospace Technology Institute with the U.K.'s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Innovate U.K.
In addition to Spirit's collaboration with the U.K. research labs, Spirit announced earlier this year that it has broken ground on a 70,000 square-foot Aerospace Innovation Centre at its Prestwick facility. The site's focus on infusion processes for composite materials, part handling, assembly automation, rapid prototyping and virtual/augmented reality will all directly support the company's wing development and industrialization efforts.