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When the A350 XWB takes to the skies for the first time later this year it will be a momentus achievement for Airbus and one of the proudest moments in Hexcel’s 65 year history.
When Hexcel was awarded the contract in 2008 to supply carbon fiber prepreg for all the A350 XWB composite primary structures, it was the largest contract in the company’s history, expected to generate revenues of $4-5 billion. Hexcel’s total content on each A350 XWB is now over $4 million. Hexcel secured the A350 XWB contract by developing a complete composite proposal including carbon fiber prepreg and associated products. Hexcel’s experience in Intermediate Modulus carbon fibers was used to design HexTow® IMA to Airbus requirements. The HexPly® M21E prepreg resin matrix was developed by Hexcel chemists to ensure that the very high performance properties in the fiber are fully optimized in the cured prepreg laminates. The A350 XWB composite structures built by Airbus and the Tier 1’s using HexPly® M21E/IMA include entire fuselage panels, keel beam, the entire wing (covers, spars and center wing-box) and empennage. The A350 XWB Lower Wing Covers are the biggest single civil aviation parts ever made from carbon fiber, measuring 32 meters long by 6 meters wide. To meet the increasing demand for HexTow® carbon fiber, new lines have been added at Hexcel’s PAN precursor facility in Decatur, AL; new carbon fiber lines have been commissioned in Salt Lake City, UT; and Hexcel built its first European carbon fiber manufacturing plant in Illescas, Spain.To produce the vast quantities of prepreg required for the A350 XWB Hexcel introduced a new model for the cost-effective large scale production of prepreg, producing resin film in a continuous process to very tight aerial weight tolerances in Duxford, UK which has improved the quality, accuracy and consistency of the resin film. Hexcel is also expanding its prepreg matrix capacities at its Salt Lake City, Utah facility. The resin film from the UK is converted into UD prepreg at Hexcel facilities in France, Spain, Germany and the USA from where it is supplied to nearby Airbus facilities and the Tier 1s throughout Europe and the USA. This has resulted in a highly effective supply chain model for prepreg production, which benefits the customer and Hexcel, resulting in shorter lead times, greater responsiveness, reduced transportation of materials, point of use delivery, less packaging, reduced inventory and less requirement for cold storage space. “We are very much looking forward to celebrating the A350 XWB first flight later this year” said Nick Stanage, Hexcel President and COO. “Since we were awarded the contract by Airbus back in 2008 we have delivered on our commitments by investing in Hexcel’s global capacity as required for the A350 and other aircraft programs. Our expansion has been successful because of our close cooperation with Airbus and their global partners. The combination of advanced technology and operational excellence is the foundation for our business at Hexcel and I wish to thank our Hexcel team, suppliers and valued customers who are working on the A350 program for their dedication and commitment.”More information: www.hexcel.com