Building the largest passenger aircraft in the world is not simply a case of scaling up existing parts, bolting everything together and taking to the air. At every stage, for virtually every component, a major rethink was required. The design of the aluminium skins that make up the 45m long wings called for them to be manufactured in one length by a unique creep-forming tool designed by our partners at Bennett Associates.
The key innovation was the development of complex curved tools that could have their shapes changed at any time whilst maintaining a 0.2mm tolerance.
• Production of the structural design and fabrication drawings enabling a standard fabricator to manufacture and install the tools using 3D analysis and design packages
• Design of all the mechanical, electrical and transportation structures for transferring the tools
• Devised along with the fabricator a means of laser cutting that greatly increased the accuracy and reproducibility of the process for both carbon and stainless steel plate
• Design of the access and storage structures for the tools Production of 9 skins but in an area required for 1 checking fixtures that were used in conjunction with laser tracking measuring systems to verify the wing configurations
Spencer Group managed the manufacture and installation of the tooling, as well as writing the control software for the panel/tool manufacturing system. The project was completed on time and under budget. The facility was the first of its kind and was taken from initial concepts to a production-ready unit in under two years.
Bennett Associates designed adjustable creep-forming tooling, a process that creates a formed finished skin with very little inherent stress that allowed compensations to be made during production trials prior to the start of first article manufacture. The equipment forms and handles panels of aluminium alloy from 5mm to 25mm thick, 23 metres to 33 metres long and up to 2.5 metres wide