FACC receives innovation award for composite wing box

FACC's wing manufacturing process relies on dry fiber placement, infusion and out-of-autoclave curing to produce a wing box integrated with wing skins.

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FACC AG (Linz, Austria) reported on Oct. 24 that it has been honoured with the Innovation Prize of the State of Upper Austria 2013 for the development of an integral composite wing box for aircraft using a new infusion-based manufacturing procedure called MARI.

Walter Stephan, chairman of FACC AG, and Robert Machtlinger, chief operating officer of FACC AG, accepted the prize in the category “Major Enterprises” during the official awards ceremony in the ORF OÖ (Upper Austrian TV) studio. It was presented by State Economic Councillor Michael Strugl.

The highly integral wing box for large aircraft is manufactured entirely from carbon fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP) using a newly developed infusion process. The advantages of this innovation are to be seen in considerable savings of costs, time and energy in the manufacturing process and improved product characteristics of the wing box. FACC says it is the first company in the world to manufacture wing skins in one shot in combination with a newly developed infusion technology.

In the MARI infusion process developed and patented by FACC, the wing skin is assembled fully integral from dry semi-finished fiber components instead of prepregs. The skins are assembled together with their reinforcements, positioned in a tool and placed in a curing oven. After the entire component has been heated, the structure is infused with resin.

The process allows FACC and its customers to decrease the number of mechanical connecting elements, such as screws or rivets, normally used in wing manufacturing. This results in aircraft that are lighter and use less fuel. The concept of the wing box may be scaled down to any size and adapted to all sizes and types of aircraft. Savings are also achieved by the use of curing ovens instead of energy-intensive autoclaves. The use of dry fibers obviates the need to store prepregs under refrigeration, thereby reducing energy costs.