Skip to main content

Innovative Infusion Airframe Manufacturing System

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - IIAMS (Innovative Infusion Airframe Manufacturing System)

Reporting period: 2020-04-01 to 2020-09-30

The main objective of IIAMS (Innovative Infusion Automated Manufacturing System, www.iiams.eu) has been the development of an innovative system able to manufacture an integrated carbon fiber wing box structure according to topic specifications.

IIAMS started at Q3 2018 and finished last September 2020. MTORRES was responsible for the complete process design and manufacturing of both the equipment and the demonstration parts, as well as the simulation of the critical steps. AIRBUS was the Topic Manager (TM), responsible for the part design as well as for process verification.

This manufacturing system was based on out-of-autoclave resin infusion technology, and its ultimate purpose was to demonstrate that an alternative technology (to standard prepreg cured in autoclave) with lower costs, reduced lead times and less environmental footprint, can achieve similar design tolerances and quality levels.

Part integration was key to reduce weight and cost. All the elements (lower skin, front and rear spars, stringers and stiffeners) made use of MTORRES AFP (Automated Fiber Placement) technology for dry fiber. 3D layup was used for the skin, whereas 2D layup and hotforming was decided for the rest of elements. Integration was done before the infusion process.

The resulting manufacturing system is fully portable, allowing TM to manufacture parts and components in any of its production sites.

Society will hopefully benefit from this process, as it will allow the development of more lightweight aircrafts, with less fuel consumption and less CO2 generation. Component integration avoids fasteners and shimming, with the subsequent weight saving, not only coming from the fasteners, but also from the extra part thickness usually needed to host them.
IIAMS results also reduce the energy consumption during wing-box manufacturing, as autoclave is not used and carbon fiber lightweight tools have been used to decrease mass.
Paperless process has been implemented thanks to Industry 4.0 technologies, including fast training through Augmented Reality, thus decreasing the carbon footprint.
During the first phases, process has been defined and small tests have been run in order to get confirmation of the design. After that, a simplified mock-up, incorporating all the key elements (skin, stringers, spar and stiffener), has been manufactured, following the full-scale process. After verification of the results, design and manufacturing of the full-scale system has been done and full scale dummies have been manufactured.

An agile methodology has been used, speeding up trial and error loops. Low cost dry fibre tape (<50% cost) and MTorres rapid mould manufacturing allowed more iterations and shorter cycles. MTorres has made use of previous experience to optimise AFP technology in order to maximise the wing box quality and minimize time and cost.
Simulations of the process have been done when needed (infusion, heat exchange, etc.), in order to verify process parameters and reliability.

Manufacturing system includes:

- Lightweight carbon fiber tooling for both wings (LH/RH).
- Vacuum-assisted preform transportation device
- ACTI, complete process control
- Hotforming, infusion and curing station
- Resin dosing system
- Non-contact flow and curing monitoring equipment
- AR equipment

MTorres AFP machine has been used for the process, including its cut and add system at full speed, ensuring this solution has been the highest productivity dry fibre placement solution. Infrared (IR) has been used to activate the binder, as it was suitable for the material used and had less safety requirements than laser.
Manufacturing of the portable production equipment, transportation to Topic Manager site, fast setup and manufacturing of 2 full-scale dummy parts, as well as aeronautical grade material demonstrators, have been successfully achieved. Parts show an extremely high degree of integration, which includes not only the skin and stringers, but also the front and rear spars, along with their stiffeners, everything infused one-shot but keeping the same tolerances that can be achieved in standard assembly jigs, when parts are individually positioned and fastened together.

Dissemination activities have been carried out, in order to show the advantages of this technology to end users. Workshops were held at TM facilities for the knowledge of engineers and designers. Information was also shown at composite trade fairs, like JEC.
IIAMS has led to the development of a novel portable manufacturing system for airframe structures, with a high level of integration, thus allowing weight and energy consumption reduction and environmental impact decrease.
System has been proved with the manufacturing of 2 complete dummy parts, one at R&D facilities and the other at TM facilities, showing the easiness of portability and installation.
Commercially available material has been used in the final stage in order to prove that the system is not only valid for initial material but also for any other, and also proving that process setup could be done with cheap materials without any loss on reliability.
Some of the most important innovations introduced by IIAMS project are:
- Out Of Autoclave process (OoA, high temperature, LRI): the wing box structure is manufactured by Liquid Resin Infusion method. Additionally, the process does not use autoclave, and only a simple portable oven is used. The target is to minimize power consumptions and simplify the manufacturing industrial means.
- Highest level of integration (one-shot): all the elements are dry pre-assembled over the curing tool and co-infused together to get the wing box in only one infusion. No assembly jig is needed. Strict tolerances are achieved.
- Lightweight tooling: all the elements and tooling involved in the manufacturing system are designed to avoid using of overheads cranes and other heavy equipment. Most of elements are carbon fiber, and can be handled by two operators or a standard electrical fork-lift.
- Portable system: manufacturing system is ready to be completely movable (from one manufacturing facility to another by standard trucks). Installation processes consist only in unloading and power supply connection.
- Automation technologies integration (AFP, ACTI): manufacturing process is fully automated. All the lower wing box structure components are laid-up by AFP means, using dry fiber. Additionally, hotforming, infusion and cure process are automatically controlled by a centralized system, called Automated Center for Thermo Infusion (ACTI). This system controls hotforming and infusion cycles and print graphic results and collect data parameters used in the process. These data are used in the early stages of the process to analyze and improve process setup. Flow and real curing degree are also measured through non-contact sensors.
- Industry 4.0 technologies integration: Augmented Reality mobile application was implemented as a fast operator training tool. It includes process sequence definition as well as user and maintenance manual access as a paperless technology tool. The mobile application works together with the HMI.
The manufacturing technology has been successfully proven. End users have shown interest either for the complete process or for any of the improvements (carbon fiber tooling, dry AFP with IR, hotforming, dummy material, AR, etc.), Next aircraft generation can now make use of greener technologies.
IIAMS_3D AFP of the skin
IIAMS_Dummy 2 manufactured at Topic Manager facilities
IIAMS_Dummy 1 manufactured at R&D facilities