Case story

Cure Capable Mandrel for Aerospace Structures

Langley Mill, UK

HX42 delivers a high-accuracy, structural composite tool CTE-matched to the component.

This project is a development of the current composite Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) mandrels. Used by GKN Aerospace in the production of the Airbus A350 XWB rear wing spars, the mandrels significantly reduce tooling and manufacturing costs.

Development of AFP Mandrel

  • Made using TenCate AmberTool® HX42
  • Nominal 36-ply laminate, using a combination of both uni-directional and woven tooling prepregs
  • Foam core construction: eliminates the need for a pattern and provides vibration dampening during final tool machining to ensure higher accuracy

Project Outcome

  • A 3.5-meter-long section of a cure capable AFP mandrel tool was successfully manufactured.
  • Composite components manufactured from the development AFP mandrel exhibited excellent dimensional accuracy compared to parts made from an Invar mold of identical geometry.

The AFP mandrel test tool developed during the project shows a unique combination of three elements:

1. A structural item - high stiffness & low deflection to meet the AFP process criteria.

2. A high-accuracy mold tool - vacuum integral, long-life capable, machined surface to meet mold tool performance criteria.

3. CTE matched to the component to achieve the part accuracy required.

GKN Aerospace AFP Mandrels

  • Composite AFP mandrels are used in the manufacture of the Airbus A350 XWB rear wing spars.
  • Max. length 13.5 meters.
  • Max. weight 2,750 kg.
  • Accurate within ±0.25 mm over the complete surface.
  • Max. deflection < 0.1 mm with a 100 kg load placed at the center.

NATEP (National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme) project, conducted by project partners:

Composite Tooling & Engineering Solutions Ltd (composite tooling design specialists), Retrac Composites Ltd (composite tooling manufacturer), and GKN Aerospace (end user).

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