Spirit AeroSystems unveils new composites curing technology

Spirit’s research group in Scotland has developed an “intelligent heated tool” technology that obviates the need for the autoclave and reduces cure time by 40%.

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Spirit AeroSystems (Wichita, KS, US) announced on Dec. 14 that its Advanced Technology Centre in Prestwick, Scotland, has developed an improved method for manufacturing aerospace composite parts out of the autoclave.

In collaboration with the University of Strathclyde and the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems (CENSIS), Spirit developed an intelligent heated tool for curing composite components. Spirit says the new technology can cure composite parts 40% faster at half the cost and supports a wide range of composite components across industries, from wind turbine blades to the next-generation of composite aircraft.

"Instead of curing components at a standard temperature for hours at a time, we can now tailor the cycle time to match individual part geometries," Stevie Brown, lead engineer at Spirit's Advanced Technology Centre in Prestwick, explains. "The autoclave has been a bottleneck in manufacturing lines, and removing it will reduce cycle times for components, cut production costs and decrease energy consumption."

Spirit says its new technology introduces an intelligent, multi-zone heated tool, which removes the need for an autoclave. The tool enables complete control of the curing process through real-time monitoring and feedback.

CENSIS supported the collaboration with funding and provided project management expertise. The University of Strathclyde provided technical support and developed the control algorithm and software for the intelligent tool.

The collaboration will continue through 2018, and Spirit has already begun applying the technology in research and manufacturing projects.

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