German Airbus A350 XWB Production commences
Airbus has commenced production of the latest Airbus product, the A350 XWB, in Germany. The green light was jointly given at the company’s production plant in Stade by Airbus President and CEO Tom Enders, Executive Vice President Operations and Chairman of the Board of Management Airbus Germany Gerald Weber, and Parliamentary State Secretary and German government aerospace coordinator Peter Hintze.
The first German component will also be one for the record books for its size. Measuring almost 32 metres by 6 metres, the upper wing shell is the largest integrated component ever to be built by Airbus from weight-saving carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP).
The upper wing shells will be built using advanced production processes at the 30,000 square metre production hangars in Stade. For the first time automated tape-laying technology will be used not only for the carbon fibre but also for the lightning strike protection and fibreglass components. The wing shell, measuring 31,6 m by 5,6 m, will then undergo polymerisation in the autoclave. This high-tech oven is one of the largest facilities of its kind worldwide and can accommodate two wing shells simultaneously.
In addition to laying the wing skin panels, the plant also produces the stringers (longitudinal stiffeners used in wing panels). In order to produce these components Airbus has for the first time set up a flow line production system which measures 140 metres in length.
Other innovations include an entirely new quality control system which now permits inspection of the external and internal surfaces of CFRP components of that size simultaneously. The advanced plant also boasts the use of waterjet technology for edge trimming and a high-precision automated conveyance system in the production hall for large components.
In addition to producing the upper wing shells for the A350 XWB, the Airbus Stade plant builds the vertical tailplane and, for the first time, CFRP fuselage shells. Approximately 100 employees will work in A350 XWB production by the end of 2010. This figure is expected to rise to around 500 when production reaches full capacity.