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Airbus and Northrop Grumman explore composite wing technology

Leading global security company, Northrop Grumman, agreed a Cooperation and Research Agreement with Airbus to assist the development of the aviation giant’s Wing of Tomorrow programme. Process Industry Forum looks at how advanced composite manufacturing technology has helped the partnership take flight.

This new three-year alliance will see Northrop Grumman and Airbus working together on the development of complex composite wing stiffener forming automation using out-of-autoclave material systems. A process fuelled by investment in equipment, test articles and engineering support.

Automated stiffener forming process

Northrop Grumman already produces composite fuselage stringers and frames for the Airbus A350 XWB -900 and -1000 variants at its advanced Aircraft Commercial Center of Excellence facility in Clearfield, Utah. As such, they company has delivered more than 200,000 Airbus A350 parts since the programme was launched.

A proprietary automated stiffener forming process has been pivotal in the development of high-rate production composite parts that are dimensionally precise and affordable. This technology will be developed further for the material systems, geometries and processing needs of the future, while maintaining the benefits of highly automated production processes.

Airbus Wing of Tomorrow programme

The Airbus Wing of Tomorrow programme aims to address future aggressive aircraft production rates and the requirement for wings to be made faster and more cost-efficiently. The programme explores optimal materials, manufacturing and assembly techniques, as well as new technologies in aerodynamics and wing architecture.

Experimental work with new materials represents a major element of the programme. Lower-cost composite technologies currently being tested could enable wing components to be manufactured much faster, thanks to significantly reduced equipment and tooling costs. Advancements in composite materials also opens up new possibilities for wing configurations and construction techniques.

Advanced composite manufacturing technology

“This agreement builds on Northrop Grumman’s valuable working relationship with Airbus and its partners,” says Wendy Williams, vice president and general manager, aerospace structures, at Northrop Grumman. “Our work with Airbus is an important component of growth in the commercial aerospace structures business.”

“We are excited about the advanced composite manufacturing technology being developed to support the Wing of Tomorrow concept, and our team is eager to continue our long-term relationship with Airbus on their future endeavours,” she adds.

For more information visit www.northropgrumman.com.

Company Profile

Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, space, strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide.

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