Weiss develops custom oven for A350 XWB door fabrication

Weiss Heat Technology works with Airbus to develop an out-of-autoclave (OOA) process for the fast, repeatable, cost-efficient fabrication of carbon fiber composite door structures.

Weiss Heat Technology (Grand Rapids, MI, US) reports that it has developed a customized oven for the fabrication of carbon fiber composite door structures for the A350 XWB.

The doors are built at Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth, Germany. The technical plant, in which the carbon fiber components for the aircraft doors are cured, was specifically developed for Airbus by Weiss Heat Technology. Key factors are the ease of use, occupational safety, optimized accessibility, accelerated production and cost efficiency.

In the three-phase manufacturing process, carbon fiber fabrics are laid up by hand and then transferred to a preforming station. Here, components are first covered with a special rubber membrane, put under vacuum and compacted with a binder material at a specific temperature, creating preforms.

The preforms are then moved into the continuous oven and cured under vacuum at 140-180°C for about 30 minutes. Circulating air and infrared heaters are used to heat the oven.

After cure, the door assembly is transported to a cooling step. Depending on the charge, air of 4-8°C is used for cooling. "For large components, we achieve the same cooling times by lowering the temperature accordingly," says Erwin Ninic of Airbus. "For smaller components, the temperature is correspondingly higher." Once cooling is complete, the lifting platform returns to its lower position and the system plate retracts to beneath the plant. Then the loading station cycle starts over again.

Ninic says of the oven, "The machine has run daily from March 2014 – without fault and reliably in three-shift operation” The company's machine is the second of its kind for Airbus Helicopters. Based on the positive experience and an extensive comparison with competitors, Airbus once again decided to collaborate with Weiss.

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