Airbus' Nantes site - which is one of three specialist composite centres for parent company EADS - has been conducting a cooperative research project to develop new machinery for the manufacture of aerospace composite materials.
Following two years of development, the partnership with Forest-LinÃ© and Coriolis has designed a new machine capable of producing complex structures such as fuselage panels for the A350 XWB and future programmes.
This machine can simultaneously provide an output of 32 6.35-mm. wide resin-impregnated carbon fibres. The reduced size of this composite-fibre "tape" allows extreme precision and helps overcome potential difficulties when tackling complex parts.
In addition to its high level of precision, the machine can produce 8 kilos of composite per hour.
This new system, patented by Coriolis, is a significant step forward for composites technology. With the machine, carbon fibres are now driven into - and protected by - individual flexible tubes, which hold them in place and prevent them from being bent during manufacturing. The concept already has been used to produce several high quality demonstrator fuselage panels for the A350.
The machinery also is simpler and more compact than current practices, allowing the use of robots or gantry cranes which can be easily integrated into a lean manufacturing set up.