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GKN Aerospace manufactures Airbus A350 XWB wing spars using Umeco’s large-scale composite tooling mandrels

News International-French

23 May 2012

Umeco manufactured a suite of large-scale tooling mandrels for GKN Aerospace using Umeco’s tooling prepregs. GKN Aerospace uses these tools to produce Airbus A350XWB rear wing spars using advanced fibre-placement (AFP) technology.

GKN Aerospace asked Umeco to design and manufacture low-weight, low-cost mandrels exhibiting high stiffness and excellent geometric accuracy (essential requirements due to a maximum permissible 2mm deflection allowance at the mandrel mid-point).


The mandrels that Umeco designed and manufactured consisted of machined foam cores over-laminated with Umeco’s LTM®217 epoxy tooling resin system combined with woven carbon fibre and ultra-high modulus unidirectional carbon fibres. The mandrels were then machined in their assembled state to the final spar dimensions, within the specified ±0.25mm tolerance. The suite of tooling mandrels (measuring 13.7, 12 and 11.9m) provide GKN Aerospace with undeniable benefits:


  • The designs incorporate a vacuum system to facilitate air extraction at the debulking stage from a single point at the end of each mandrel. This leaves the full length of the mandrel surface uncluttered and accessible for the AFP operation, while simplifying the vacuum bagging operation.
  • Initially designed specifically for current Airbus A350 XWB wing construction, all four mandrels can be re-machined and re-laminated to implement quickly and cost-efficiently geometry changes.


This project illustrates Umeco’s design and materials expertise as well as our ability to deliver high quality tooling for the aerospace industry market leaders.


Liam Moloney, Umeco Engineering Manager – Tooling, said: “We were pleased by the prospect of working with GKN Aerospace and applying our tooling expertise and prepregs on a project of this magnitude. These tooling mandrels set a new challenge for us, but we rose to the occasion and succeeded, both for us and also for our customer. The tooling mandrels are now being used to manufacture wing spars for aircraft which are setting the standards in aviation.

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