Vötsch built oven for the Airbus A350 XWB

The company provides details on the three-phase process of the new ‘special’ oven for the project.

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The doors of the new Airbus A350 XWB are built on the German site of Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth. The technical plant in which the CFRP components for the aircraft doors are cured, was specifically developed for Airbus by Vötsch (Reiskirchen-Lindenstruth, Germany). "We are very pleased that Airbus put their trust in us once again and gave us the responsibility for the engineering and the entire curing plant," said Reiner Wiesehöfer, head of the heat technology production division at Vötsch Industrietechnik GmbH.

More than 1,000 doors for the A350 XWB are cured every year in Donauwörth in the new special oven. The aircraft door components are made from CFRP. The composite consists of carbon fibers that are embedded in a plastic matrix. As a result of the very low density and high rigidity, the material is ideally suited to constructing numerous aircraft parts. In the new A350 XWB, the proportion of CFRP now used is more than 50% of all the materials.

Process in three phases

The three phases during the manufacturing process in Vötsch's continuous oven are evenly timed, the company stated. One aircraft door consists of about 80 to 100 components. "Firstly, our manufacturing colleagues place the components as a dry arrangement on a table with a system plate," said Erwin Ninic, responsible project manager at Airbus Helicopters. "This starts the three-phase process of the new special oven."

Phase 1:

First, the components are covered with a special rubber membrane, put under vacuum and compacted together with the binder material at a specific temperature. This produces preforms of the component. At this point the carbon fiber compound is only set to the extent that it can still be filled with resin later on.

Phase 2:

After loading the relevant program, which determines parameters such as the vacuum and temperature, the lifting door of the continuous oven opens and the charge is inserted. In the oven, temperatures of between 140 and 180 degrees Celsius are maintained for a period of about 30 minutes. A vacuum continues to ensure that the form stability is also retained at high temperature. Both circulating air and infrared heaters are used to heat the oven.

Phase 3:

The lifting door of the plant outlet then opens and the pallet is transported by the lifting platform for cooling. Depending on the charge, cold air of 4 to 8 degrees is used for cooling. To ensure that the plant is always synchronized, the cooling period is always the same. "For large components, we achieve the same cooling times by lowering the temperature accordingly," Ninic said. "For smaller components the temperature is correspondingly higher." Once the cooling period is over, the lifting platform returns to its lower position and the system plate retracts to beneath the plant. The loading station cycle starts over again.

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