Presses and press systems are used in aircraft construction. As a specialist in press systems, WICKERT received the order to build a composite press system for Airbus. The challenges faced when developing this system were forward-looking.
When the official project launch of the twin-engine Airbus A350 XWB long-haul aircraft took place on the 1st of December 2006, nobody at WICKERT in Landau in the Palatinate region of Germany thought that they would be a part of this innovative development.
WICKERT developed a composite press for the production of passenger doors and cargo doors for the A 350 series wide-body aircraft. This started the company’s most ambitious project so far – the development of a composite press system for Airbus.
But there were a lot of challenges in providing a solution for this enormous aircraft? The wingspan of the A-350 is more than 210 feet and exceeds that of the Airbus A 330. Even the basic version of the A 350-800 accommodates 270 passengers. A major advantage of this new development is the enormous fuel savings.
Airbus itself talks about 30 percent savings per seat compared to competing aircrafts in this class. A major contributor to this is the use of lightweight high-performance materials such as those used for the aircraft doors. The door is produced using a WICKERT press.
The carbon fiber composite components, which are manufactured in a process called Resin Transfer Moulding (RTM) are also used in the automotive industry in addition to aircraft construction.
Thermoplastic fiber composites offer great advantages in terms of weldability, process times and recycling in particular. In addition, there are also very large opportunities for composites in component geometry and design.
Another advantage: Due to the low melt viscosity, thermoplastic polymerizing material systems can penetrate the fiber structures very well. Thus, structural components with a comparatively high fiber volume content that also possess good impact properties can be produced.
The RTM process is a closed process in which the resin (the matrix) is sucked (vacuum) or also pressed into (injected) into the glass fiber and carbon fiber in a mold. In the case considered, the injection method is used.
Despite the “high-quality” specifications sheet, it was possible to use the tried and tested modular system of the WICKERT top ram press for the development of the WKP 2 500 S – composite press. The manufacturing process was handled with the utmost care, however the process was not easy.
The carbon parts must not be exposed to any oil mist. This is not an easy task with a hydraulic top ram press, because the hydraulic systems “breathe”.
WICKERT however managed to develop an individual solution to meet the requirements. Many years of experience in pharmaceutical clean room technology helped a great deal in the development of the solution.
The highest level of leakage safety guarantees the complete enclosure of the press area as well as the entire press technology peripheral area with the hydraulic and electrical systems.
The control and process visualization of the WKP 2 500 S-Composite Press includes much more than the press itself: The injector, the heating and cooling system and the press shuttle are also integrated into this control system.
Further technical details should help you to get an idea as to the scope of the press.
It has a closing pressure of 250 metric tons and has clamping plates with dimensions of 7.87 x 5.91 feet.
The piston stroke is 3.28 feet and the installation height is 3.94 feet. In addition, the press has fixed installed upper and lower molds. Fully automatic mounting with the media moud supplied from a high-bay warehouse takes place via a shuttle.
The fully automated transportation and handling system also handles the return transport after the process. The cycle time in the production plant at Eurocopter in Donauwörth is about six hours per aircraft door.
Another major hurdle in the overall concept was the very large data collection program required for use in the aviation and aerospace industry.
Each part requires detailed documentation of the manufacturing process including traceability for all operator actions. An in-process back-up PC performs additional backup functions. There are also precautions present in the event of power failure.
With the solution presented here, WICKERT is once again demonstrating that hydraulic presses can meet the highest production demands.