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10/21/2015 | 1 MINUTE READ

Ascent Aerospace signs composite tooling contracts with Boeing, Airbus

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Ascent to produce ‘largest-ever’ wing skin tool for Boeing 777X as well as produce a sixth set of wing skin molds for the Airbus A350 XWB.

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Ascent Aerospace’s Coast Composites (Santa Ana, CA, US) was awarded a contract by Boeing (Seattle, WA, US) to manufacture the 'largest-ever' wing skin molds. Ascent will produce a set of lay-up tooling, consisting of four individual molds, to be used at Boeing's new facility in Everett, WA to manufacture the 777X's composite wing skins.

Coast Composites will manufacture the molds with its modular tool building system, based on the company's patented laser welding technology and proven on previous wing skin mold builds. Tooling segments will be manufactured of Invar, a specialty steel alloy selected to match the thermal expansion properties of the composite material used for the wing skin. Invar segments small enough to transport on conventional roads will be shipped to Everett then assembled onsite. After welding in Everett, the final wing skin tools will measure over 110 feet long and up to 21 feet wide and weigh approximately 80,000 pounds each.

"As aircraft evolve, our capabilities, designs and processes have advanced to meet new challenges. We developed our innovative modular tool building system to accommodate the ever-increasing size of aircraft tooling," said Paul Walsh, president and COO of Ascent Tooling Group, part of Ascent Aerospace. 

Coast Composites has previously built 26 wing skin molds.

In another announcement, Coast Composites says it has been contracted to produce a sixth set of wing skin molds for the Airbus A350 XWB. Following Coast Composites' delivery of the first set for the A350-1000 in May, Airbus announced the completion of the first production wings in August.

Ascent Tooling Group also produced tooling for segments of the fuselage and nacelles – in total, more than 70% of the A350 XWB's outer surface – as well as the center wingbox and 100% of the stringers and frame. Coast Composites has developed a unique system for building extra-large Invar tools, based on the company's patented "deep penetration" laser welding technology.

Wing skin tool segments for the A350 XWB are manufactured of Invar and shipped to Airbus facilities in Spain and Germany, then assembled onsite. Ascent's traveling laser-welding robot minimizes the heat-affected zone and does not introduce high thermal loads into the structure. This eliminates distortion, shrinkage and, most importantly, the requirement for post-heat treating. The 32-meter finished tool can be joined in a vacuum tight weld in a matter of hours.

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