A transnational, transfunctional Airbus team has been honoured for developing a highly-efficient new method to repair fibre optic cables, which are used extensively across the company’s product line of modern commercial jetliners.
Lighter than traditional metallic wiring and offering much higher bandwidths, fibre optic cables are applied throughout an aircraft – integrated in taxi aid cameras, head-up displays, in-flight entertainment, cockpit systems and other key components. However, if non-conformities were discovered in a cable during its installation, making the necessary repairs was a costly and time-consuming process.
Project co-leader Laetitia Mennebeuf, a fibre optics specialist from Airbus’ Systems Engineering department, explained the issue at hand: “Before, if damage was found, the entire cable and surrounding harnesses needed to be removed so that the repair could be performed in a shop outside of the aircraft. This took 10 hours to do and in removing the harness, other cables and wiring could get damaged.”
She added: “One of the more common non-conformities concerns the contacts at the two ends of a cable. If the contacts were deficient, they had to be cleaned and polished or remanufactured at the shop floor laboratory.”
“Working with our supplier, AVOptic, we developed new, portable tools that re-polish the contacts,” explained fellow project co-leader Nadège Brunaud-Martinerie, an engineer from Airbus’ Manufacturing Engineering department. The process was introduced at Airbus facilities through special “awareness sessions.”
“Because they’re portable – and battery-powered – the new tools can be brought on board the aircraft and repairs made without disturbing the other installers,” she continued. “We use the same processes and get the same results and quality as before, but by not having to remove entire cables and harnesses, repair time is cut from 10 hours to two hours.”
Underscoring its effectiveness in streamlining repairs, the project – which lasted 18 months from concept to handover – was recognised by Airbus with a 2015 Award for Excellence.