A350 wing assembly to set new pulse

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Production of Airbus's first carbonfibre wing for a commercial product is being undertaken by a mix of in-house divisions and outside suppliers, with a new assembly process to reduce cost and lead time.

The wing's carbonfibre skins, or covers, are to be produced by Airbus's German plant in Stade (upper skin) and its Illescas plant in Spain (bottom skin).

The wing fixed leading and trailing edges have been subcontracted to outside suppliers. The former Airbus UK Filton site - now owned by GKN - will produce the fixed trailing edge, while Spirit AeroSystems of the USA is supplying the fixed leading edge.

"Spirit's new factory in Kinston, North Carolina will produce the composite front spars, which will be shipped to its Prestwick, UK site for assembly," says Philippe Launay, who is head of A350 industrial programme management.

Airbus UK retains its traditional role of wingbox assembly, with the work to be undertaken in an all-new factory to be constructed at its Broughton site in North Wales.

The wing production process will differ from that used for the A380, says Launay. "Assembly of the A380 wing is on a static line with vertical build-up. For the A350 we will adopt a fully horizontal build-up process with a pulse line meaning that the wings will move one after the other down the line," he adds. "This will allow us to reduce the lead time and the amount of assets involved, as well as optimising our process in terms of cost."

Following assembly, the wings will be flown by Beluga to Airbus's Bremen, Germany, site for equipping, before another flight to Toulouse for final assembly.