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PARIS: Spirit AeroSystems pitches composite manufacturing process

Spirit AeroSystems has developed a new, lower-cost composite manufacturing process for commercial aircraft fuselages it expects will be ready for production as soon as 2025.

The US company, which is displaying at the Paris air show a fuselage panel manufactured using the process, sees the technology as fitting for an aircraft like Boeing's proposed New Mid-market Airplane.

"Yes, it would be applicable to that type of aircraft," Spirit vice-president and chief engineer of research and development Sean Black tells FlightGlobal.

He adds that any new commercial aircraft would benefit from the technology, saying: "The platforms will come."

Spirit calls the demonstrator fuselage structure its Advanced Structures Technology and Revolutionary Architecture (ASTRA) panel.

"The primary objective is the secure a 30% cost objective from our current technology," says Black.

Spirit, which developed the new process over 18 months, already makes composite fuselage sections for the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350.

Engineers incorporated several advances into the new process, including the use of a lower-cost, two-piece production tool, which replaces the single tool traditionally used to manufacture composite fuselage sections.

The new process also involves building stringers directly onto the panel. Black describes this as a "game changer" from the current process which involves forming the stringers first and then attaching them to the fuselage panel.

Additionally, the ASTRA process involves the use of machines to lay carbonfibres in lines that curve around fuselage openings, such as for doors. The process "steers the load" around the opening and creates load "continuity", replacing the current process which involves more layering of fibres around openings, says Black.

Spirit will continue advancing the technology and expects it will be ready for full production in the 2025-27 timeframe, he indicates.

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