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Responsive Engineering - Airbus Contract

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Responsive Engineering Group
: 16 March, 2007  (New Product)
A North East engineering group has completed a £500,000-plus contract to provide modifications to manufacturing tooling at Airbus UK's wing skin production facility at its North Wales site.
The Team Valley, Gateshead-based Responsive Engineering Group provided a combination of high accuracy waterjet laser cutting, precision machining and specialist welding services to Airbus through three of its constituent engineering companies, Streamline, Kingsway and Weldex.

The work carried out by Responsive for the Airbus Broughton plant involved complex re-engineering modifications to the special tooling production system used to create the curvature in the top skin sections of the 45 metre wings of the A380 aircraft.

Shaping commercial aircraft wing skins to extremely tight assembly tolerances is a highly complex operation. To achieve the double curved aerodynamic shape of the A380 aircraft top wing sections, Airbus developed a sophisticated creep form tooling process involving high pressure and heat treatment of separate skin sections in an autoclave.

Modifications to the original creep forming tooling system were required to accommodate developments in wing design required by the differences in shape and load characteristics of the A380F freight carrying version of the original passenger aircraft.

Working with consultant engineers, Bennett Associates, Responsive was responsible for the production of the tightly spaced carbon steel laser-profiled rib boards that act as a guide system on each of eight separate creep form tools. The fully machined flat wing skin aluminium panels are then clamped onto the profile boards before the whole tool enters the autoclave for vacuum forming of the curved wing skin.

Achieving the complex aerodynamic profiles of the wing skin sections requires the tooling surfaces of the profile boards to comply with highly accurate tolerances. In total Streamline produced over 1200 individual profile boards in carbon steel and every one had to meet the precise dimension requirements that are replicated in the shape of individual top wing skin sections.

For this reason, as well as the individual accuracy required for each profile plate, clear labelling and marking methods were utilised to ensure that each board kit was positioned correctly in sequence on the heavy-duty bases of each creep form tool. Laser alignment was used to ensure that the profile boards were assembled properly on site.

As well as the manufacture of profiled rib boards, Streamline was also responsible for the production of duplex steel cover plates used to hold the wing skins in place on the tool. Another Responsive Group company, Kingsway, produced machine components, spacer blocks and mechanical fixing components for the tooling.

Weldex was responsible for the overall project management and on-site welding of the joints between different tool sections.

Peter Bernard, the Managing Director of the Responsive Group said ''This was a very challenging project in both technical and logistical terms.

'There is no doubt that our ability to offer the specialist and collective in-house engineering skills of different companies within the Group were a key factor in winning this contract against established competitors in the aerospace sector.

'The contract was completed on time and on budget. In achieving this, not only were we able to meet the precision engineering requirements of Airbus, but we were able to satisfy a demanding delivery and installation timetable in line with customer requirements. '

The Responsive Engineering Group operates from purpose built high standard workshops and office facilities covering nearly 60,000 square feet. Common ERP, Quality, H&S and financial systems are applied across the constituent group companies including Pressex, the specialist pressing, forming and fabrication subsidiary, in addition to those involved in the Airbus contract.
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