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JR Technologies (JRTL) helped to develop an innovative solution to the repair of tools needed to make the Airbus A350XWB-1000 rear wing spar sections, manufactured by GKN Aerospace.
According to JRTL, its partnership with Composite Tooling & Engineering Solutions (CTES) and Retrac Composites has produced a way of repairing composite tools which saves both time and money. It’s thought the solution will also enable the partners to carry out repairs for the aerospace industry on-site in the future, wherever the client is based.
Faced with the prospect of weeks of tracking down a large autoclave or oven to accommodate a large, composite tool which required repair, CTES and Retrac turned instead to JRTL to supply eight infra-red lamps and a hot bonding controller with multiple heater mats.
It explains that these allowed engineers to control accurately the cure of the additional prepreg laminate in multiple areas at the same time and cut the curing time of the surface sealer from 18 hours to 1½. The tool in question measures almost 14 m in length and weighs 2.75 tonnes. The geometry of the tool didn’t allow for the sole use of the controller, so infra-red lamps were brought into service to apply heat locally in complex areas of the tool. Local vacuum bags were used to apply pressure in all repair areas.
Paul Rogger, Technology Director of JR Technologies, explains, “Retrac and CTES had limited time to repair the tool, so we were pleased that we have been able to help them come up with a solution. The combination of the lamps and the hot bonding controller gave them the control they required for the cure cycle they needed to do a repair. It was also portable, so if there’s a requirement for this sort of thing in the future, clients purchasing these items from us will be able to carry out repairs on site.”
Liam Moloney, Director at CTES, said, “We previously had no other way of getting enough heat into the job if we needed to cure anything on the surface of the tool without using either a very large oven or autoclave. Finding an appropriately-sized autoclave or constructing an oven from scratch would have been very time-consuming and costly. I have been amazed by how much time this has saved, and the accuracy in terms of controlling the temperature throughout each cure has been second to none.”
Ian Drew, Project Director of Retrac Composites, said, “This is the culmination of 18 months’ work as part of a significant contract with GKN Aerospace. These tools are vital in the manufacture of the rear wing spar, so when they need to be repaired or go in for maintenance you want to be reassured they’ll come out able to do the job. CTES offered us this solution and I am delighted to see how well it’s worked.”
John Jacobs from GKN Aerospace adds, “The solution worked extremely well, saving time on an already tight tool manufacturing programme, allowing the carrying out of repairs, without having to result to the use of ovens or autoclaves. The accuracy of the control system coupled with the flexibility of the system will make for very useful tool for the repair and maintenance of composite tools.”
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