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Within the EADS group, the ninety-year-old Augsburg site represents a whole chapter of aeronautical history, all by itself. The aircraft from its production lines have left their imprint on their times.
(Published on October - November 2007 – JEC Magazine #36)
An essential player
The Augsburg site is part of Military Air Systems, one of the four business units of the Defence & Security Division at EADS. The other business units are MBDA, Defence and Communications Systems, and Defence Electronics. The Defence & Security Division itself is one of five EADS group entities – including some very wellknown names, i.e. Airbus, Military Transport Aircraft, Eurocopter and EADS Astrium – that, with their wide array of extremely state-of-the-art skills, make up EADS.
In 2006, the Military Air Systems business unit generated €2.1 billion, or a bit over 35% of the Defence & Security Division’s total turnover. The breakdown for the business activities of EADS Military Air Systems is as follows: 47% for military air systems integration, 29% for integrated services, 24% for military aerostructures, and civil aerostructures. The Military Air Systems business unit employs over 7,800 people at five different sites: one in Spain and four in Germany, including Augsburg. The EADS Augsburg site consists of three production units. It employs 2,500 people and generates €400 million in turnover.
As the leading system supplier for highlystressed structural components and the largest external supplier for the entire Airbus family, EADS Augsburg leads the business in all major European aerospace programmes. Aerostructures made in Augsburg make a crucial contribution to the promotion of new innovative materials and technologies for aircraft construction. This applies equally to aerostructural components for hybrid construction and to the development and production of trend-setting large CFRP components. The most important component within fuselage section assembly is the conical rear section (section 19), which is located between the end of the cabin and the last segment, where the auxiliary power unit is installed. Augsburg manufactures section 19 for all small Airbus models (A318 to A321) and for the two larger models A330 and A340. A further assembly processed here is the lower fuselage shell for all wide-body aircraft in the A330/A340 family. Augsburg also supplies the Boeing 787 rear pressure bulkhead to Vought.
The portfolio of Aerostructures made in Augsburg covers all of the latest CFRP technologies, including infusion and prepreg applications. Augsburg has exceptional capabilities, not only in the processing of all raw materials, but also in the development and assembly of integrated hybrid constructions. Its design skills enable Augsburg to select the ideal combination of materials, right from the design phase. The focus here is on cost and weight reduction. Customers thus have the choice in a full range of materials, from classic aluminium through to titanium and carbon fibre.
Nine decades of pioneering achievements
The EADS Augsburg site celebrated its 90th anniversary last year. During these nine decades, the site has turned out many pioneering achievements for industrial aircraft production. It has been the source of many key innovations and developments in the history of German and international aircraft construction. Legendary products such as the Me 108, the Me 109 (more than 35,000 units produced), the Me 262, the vertical take-off aircraft VJ101, the Starfighter, the Tornado, the X-31A the Eurofighter, the A400M and the civilian Airbus A318 to A380 exemplify the unique success story of this aircraft production site.
One of the core skills in the production of high-tech components is the Vacuum Assisted Process (VAP) for the manufacture of CFRP components, a patented process developed by Augsburg. Based on an infusion process, VAP uses vacuum to suck liquid resin into preformed semi-finished parts made of high-performance fibre. This process makes it possible to reduce material and direct production costs by 30-35%, compared to conventional production processes. The latest product made using the proprietary VAP process is the cargo door for the new A400M military transport aircraft. At approximately 7 m x 4 m, it is the world’s largest aircraft component manufactured using VAP technology. The advantages of VAP include:
JCM: More than ever, composites are crucial for aircraft. In your opinion, why is this so?
M. LONSINGER: The aircraft of the future must be efficient, economical and environmentally-friendly. These are objectives that are impossible to realise without CFRP materials. The use of lightweight construction materials leads to reductions in weight and fuel consumption, thus contributing significantly to climate protection. I am therefore absolutely convinced that CFRP materials will become increasingly relevant. The success of composite materials is mainly due to their outstanding characteristics. More specifically, the ability to select the fibre and matrix, as well as the enhancement geometry, allows for optimal design in compliance with structural and functional requirements. However, the main motivation behind using CFRP materials is still their great weight reduction potential, good fatigue characteristics, design flexibility and corrosion resistance. The importance of fibre composite materials is particularly welldemonstrated by the aviation industry. For example, the share of carbon fibres both in Airbus and Boeing aircraft has increased considerably in recent years. In 1983, the A310 had a CFRP material share of less than 5%, whereas this share has already increased to 25% for the A380. When the A350 embarks on its maiden flight, it will contain more than 50% of carbon fibre materials. Composites are on an upward trend.
JCM: To what extent do you use composites in your business? Is your utilization increasing?
M. LONSINGER: The motto “Aerostructures made in Augsburg” looks back on nearly 30 years of experience in the development and production of high-quality aerostructures using CFRP materials. In the seventies, the use of carbon fibre composites in the MRCA Tornado multipurpose combat aircraft and the production of a complete model front fuselage section from CFRP represented a major innovative leap forward. Since then, the Augsburg plant has continuously expanded its areas of competence. This includes the production of all CFRP centre fuselage shells for the Eurofighter prototypes and the air brake for the complete EF-series production. The use of CFRPs has been extended to civil programmes to include, for example, flap tracks for the A380, rear pressure bulkheads for the B787, and the cargo door for the new A400M military transport aircraft. In total, our capacities in the composite field are increasing by about 100% per year. We have adapted the professional training of our staff members and extended our apprenticeship programme in the field of CFRP to keep up with today’s requirements.
JCM: You have expertise in several different technologies, but you depend heavily on the vacuum-assisted process (VAP) technology. Can we expect more progress in that area?
M. LONSINGER: The portfolio of aerostructures produced in Augsburg contains all of the trend-setting CFRP technologies for infusion and prepreg applications. As a leading aerostructure plant, Augsburg not only has exceptional capabilities in the processing of all raw materials, but also in the development and assembly of integrated hybrid constructions. Our design skills enable us to select the ideal combination of materials right from the design phase. The focus here is on cost and weight reduction. Our customers thus have a wide choice of materials, from classic aluminium through to titanium and carbon fibre. I don’t believe we depend on the vacuum-assisted process (VAP). More so, VAP is driving us, considering that one of our core competencies in the production of high-tech components is the VAP process for manufacturing CFRP components, our own patented development. VAP is based on an infusion process, with liquid resin being sucked into preformed parts made of high-performance fibre using a vacuum and a special membrane. The savings made using this process (materials and direct production costs) enable us to cut costs by up to 35% in comparison to conventional production processes, with a minimum amount of investment. The latest product based on our proprietary VAP process is the cargo door for the new A400M military transport aircraft. With dimensions of approximately 7 m x 4 m, it is the world's largest aircraft component to be manufactured using VAP technology. We are also involved in the production of the B787 rear pressure bulkhead with our VAP technology. Right now, we are in the process of pushing further ahead with the VAP process. In addition, we will be introducing automation to further reduce process time and costs in the future.
JCM: What do you hope to accomplish using VAP?
M. LONSINGER: Our VAP process enables us to cost-effectively produce high-quality CFRP products. We believe that the complete delivery of stiffened aircraft shells and aircraft sections – which are produced in one shot with integrated stringers – is an important market for this process. For example, the Barracuda unmanned UAV demonstrator was produced in Augsburg, where the complete fuselage was manufactured as a double-shell construction and then bonded into one airframe.
As we all know, technological leadership is more important than ever in today’s global market because only innovative, highquality products guarantee a top position. I am convinced that in future, our site will remain on the forefront of international competition. Armed with our world-leading VAP process and our innovative products, we feel well prepared for the future.
JCM: Are you planning to prospect outside the aviation industry?
M. LONSINGER: Yes. For example, we have already entered the maritime business. Here too, Augsburg is setting standards: a membrane made from radar-absorbing material was incorporated into snorkel sheathing made entirely from fibrereinforced plastic. This sheathing has been developed by EADS Military Air Systems and guarantees the stealth capability of all components in the maritime area. In addition to the snorkel for submarine class U 214, Augsburg is also producing numerous components for submarine retractable instruments, including periscopes, ESM, radars and telecommunications boxes. These components need to withstand enormous stresses and are exposed to extreme pressure and meteorological conditions. Evidently, “Aerostructures made in Augsburg” is also open to other markets. Nevertheless, focus will be placed on aerostructures.
JCM: EADS was behind the creation of the Carbon Composites Association. What were your reasons, and what do you expect to get out of it?
M. LONSINGER: The Augsburg region has developed into a globally leading centre for carbon fibre and fibre composite technology. In order to optimally utilise the region’s know-how, to increasingly develop global markets and to create jobs, renowned companies and research institutions from Southern Germany joined forces last March to set up the Carbon Composites competence network. The region is the world’s best site for such technologies. I am convinced that this leading-edge technology will develop into an innovation driver for the whole of Germany, while creating numerous jobs. The breakthrough of fibre composites is imminent. Carbon Composites is designed as a comprehensive competence network for the entire fibre composite technology value-added chain, from the precursor for fibre production to the finished fibre composite component. The core activities of this non-profit association include crosslinking of know-how carriers from science and industry, bundling of competences, expansion and further development of technological infrastructures on industrial and scientific levels, lobbying, and promoting training and qualification measures.