Airbus aims to avoid a repeat of the A380 production dramas caused by over-reliance on the digital mock-up (DMU), by building a physical mock-up of the A350's fuselage.
"The DMU is a fantastic tool, but the lesson learned from the A380 was that we needed to go further to anticipate system installation problems," says A350 programme manager Didier Evrard. "This was a large burden we carried on the A380 programme and this is why we've built this physical mock-up."
On the A380, Airbus relied solely on digital mock-up software to test the installation of wiring and other systems, which it found to its cost was inadequate at replicating the reality of the actual assembly effort. The airframer was forced to redesign and reinstall wiring looms and re-invent its assembly process, leading to the major production delays suffered by the programme.
The A350's fuselage and cabin physical mock-up is being assembled at Airbus's Hamburg plant, with the front fuselage so far having been constructed. "In the coming months the whole fuselage will be built - we have already used it a lot last year for testing design, assembly processes, tools and jigs," adds Evrard.
Next year the physical mock-up will be used for a dry run of the systems installation into the entire fuselage before this is attempted on A350-900 MSN001, says Evrard. "This will be a very strong de-risking measure for the MSN001 final assembly."