Hexcel has been awarded a contract by Airbus worth a potential $5 billion. The contract is the company’s largest ever, and will see it supply carbon fibre composites for the primary structures of the Airbus A350 XWB. At least 53% of the new Airbus’s airframe is to be composite.

Hexcel, which is 6o years old this year – the same as the Farnborough Show itself - will be opening three new plants this year, in France, Spain and China,with an investment of $280m. This will increase its carbon fibre capacity to 7,000 tonnes by 2010.

The company is also showcasing some of its products here. It is launching its HexPly M56, a out of autoclave prepreg for aircraft secondary structures. Unlike traditional aerospace prepregs, which require an autoclave cure to achieve the require properties, HexPly M56 provides the same quality and performance from a simple oven cure under vacuum. The result is that no investment in autoclave equipment is needed, and it reduces on-going processing costs.

It is available with woven carbon, UD carbon tape, woven glass and metallic mesh reinforcements. It is suitable for hand lay-up, automated tape laying and automated fibre placement processing. The standard cure temperature is 180°C and an alternative 135°C cure cycle is possible, with potential for reduced tooling costs and composite repair applications.

Hexcel says that in OEM and Tier 1 trials all requirements for porosity, C-scan, surface aspect and mechanical performance have been achieved. And that the easy handling of HexPly M56, for hand lay-up and ATL applications, is also appreciated, along with the 30 day tack life at room temperature.

Source: Flight International