Aerospace manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems (Wichita, Kan., USA) reports that it has been working with Spintech Ventures (Xenia, Ohio, USA) to develop a new reconfigurable tooling technology for manufacturing complex composite aircraft structures. The solution uses reformable, reusable mandrels to form complex, highly integrated composite structures, with features that are not possible with traditional tools.
In 2005, Spirit AeroSystems began collaboration with Cornerstone Research Group Inc. (CRG) and CRG's affiliate company, Spintech Ventures LLC, to refine and scale up the technology. Spintech is now offering the technology under the trade name Smart Tooling. Spirit's version of the technology, which includes enhancements to enable large, integrated, single-sided reinforced structures, is known as Inflexion.
"The degree of integration of composite structural components has been limited to date by current tooling methods," says Bill Smith, acting director of technology development at Spirit. "Inflexion breaks through this barrier by providing tooling that can change states through the layup and cure phases, allowing for extraction of the tool in spite of trapping features which would hinder current tooling methods. This enables, for example, the full integration of skins, stringers, and frames or ribs in one step."
Spintech Ventures was founded in October 2010 to commercialize exclusively licensed shape memory polymer technologies, including Smart Tooling, which had been developed by CRG. "Smart Tooling's patented technology allows composite manufacturers to significantly reduce some combination of labor, material, and capital cost, while significantly increasing production throughput in the production of composite parts with trapped features and/or complex shapes," says Craig Jennings, president of Spintech Ventures.