Discussion:
Airbus moving toward solid composite fuselage on A350 XWB
(too old to reply)
jbaloun
2007-01-26 06:36:47 UTC
Permalink
Airbus has its work cut out for them. Emirates President Tim Clark is
looking for answers "in a few months" to prepare to choose between the
A350 and the 787. Meanwhile, with the 777 sales to replace 380 delays
by Emirates and FedEx Boeing is gaining almost as much as the A380
delay is costing Airbus. This is a double hit to Airbus. And with
multiple 777s Emirates will be able to send more planes in different
directions.

Aero-News Net
Report: A380 Delays Lead To More Orders In Boeing's Book
Fri, 26 Jan '07
http://www.aero-news.net/index.cfm?ContentBlockID=8f263160-cfe4-4ccf-8c3a-709f05e2bf30

As discussed on m.t.a.i, it is not clear how Airbus was to solve the
problem of an aluminum frame and composite skin and how they were to
splice the separate skin panels together. The answer may be that they
are not; by moving toward a one-piece fuselage. The present technology
in materials and assembly techniques should drive the Airbus engineers
to one of the few logical choices for the airframe configuration. This
could be A350 V3.1?? I'm losing count.

ATW Online
Airbus moving toward solid composite fuselage on A350 XWB
Friday January 26, 2007
http://atwonline.com/news/story.html?storyID=7727

This article includes no new facts but has an interesting description
of the 787 factory technology and environment and how it is different
from the 777 factory and environment. The 777 factory is much more
traditional though it too was a good improvement form its predecessors.
It sounds like Boeing is not taking any short-cuts with the 787
factory. The 787 is truely a clean-sheet design from top to bottom,
beginning to end.

The Australian
787 changes game for builders
* Boeing has scoured the world for the best of the best to create
its latest model, says Geoffrey Thomas
* January 26, 2007
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21118421-23349,00.html

James
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Daniel
2007-01-26 08:21:41 UTC
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So that's A350XWBV2.0 ... too bad, was going to very interesting to
learn how they'd have built that hybrid fuselage... wasn't Airbus
saying just months ago that the composite fuselage was too risky and
not easy to fix?
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JF Mezei
2007-01-26 09:10:35 UTC
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Post by jbaloun
are not; by moving toward a one-piece fuselage. The present technology
in materials and assembly techniques should drive the Airbus engineers
to one of the few logical choices for the airframe configuration. This
could be A350 V3.1?? I'm losing count.
My speculation:

Engineers to airbus: better to do single piece fuselage barrels

Airbus to engineers: don't have the money or time or political power
(power to displace workers)

Customers to Airbus: your compromises will make your plane uncompetitive

Airbus to Engineers: OK, you can silently investigate all fibre fuselage

The big question is how much research Airbus engineers have already done on
building single piece fuselage sections.

Another possible concept: there are already contractors all kitted up to
produce one piece fuselage plugs. And they also sell their wares in USD,
something Airbus now prefers due to low USD value and fact that aircraft
are priced in USD.

Big question is whether those companies' contracts with Boeing for the 787
would allow them to also supply fuselage plugs to Airbus.



Right now, Airbus would have to stay mum on the issue until it has final
specs ready to be published. If it were to announce today that it was
considering one-piece fuselage sections, it would be another flip-flop on
decisions and really remove any credibility left for that project.
.
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Tom Sanderson
2007-01-26 16:46:04 UTC
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Post by JF Mezei
Big question is whether those companies' contracts with Boeing for the 787
would allow them to also supply fuselage plugs to Airbus.
They may have non-compete agreements, but the big companies are so big and
working in such a small arena that I can't see them agreeing to "We'll work
for you but not for Airbus."

I strongly do suspect that they're not allowed to use any of the composite
technology they got from Boeing on a competitor's product. That would be
pretty hard to enforce, but I'm sure there would be a whole lot of scrutiny
if, say, Alenia, started building one-piece fuselage plugs for the A350XWB.

Tom.
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JF Mezei
2007-01-27 02:07:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tom Sanderson
I strongly do suspect that they're not allowed to use any of the composite
technology they got from Boeing on a competitor's product. That would be
pretty hard to enforce, but I'm sure there would be a whole lot of scrutiny
if, say, Alenia, started building one-piece fuselage plugs for the A350XWB.
Isn't EADS using its CASA facilities to build parts of the 787 ? I had
heard that they had gotten the contract to build the rear pressure bulkhead
for the 787.

If a contractor is building fuselage plugs for Boeing, I can understand
that the shape of the drum (matching the 787 fuselage), as well as the
software that describes how the tape should be layed would be extremely
proprietary to Boeing.

However, would the contractor own the tape layup machine and ovens ? If so,
then perhaps it should be possible for that contractor to bid for Airbus
contrats where Airbus would provide the drums as well as the software to
define how the carbon is layed on that drum.
.
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Tom Sanderson
2007-01-29 19:46:26 UTC
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Post by JF Mezei
Isn't EADS using its CASA facilities to build parts of the 787 ? I had
heard that they had gotten the contract to build the rear pressure
bulkhead for the 787.
That sounds right...I know Airbus (via EADS) is involved in the 787 somehow.
Post by JF Mezei
If a contractor is building fuselage plugs for Boeing, I can understand
that the shape of the drum (matching the 787 fuselage), as well as the
software that describes how the tape should be layed would be extremely
proprietary to Boeing.
I doubt Boeing even gave the software that does the tape layup to the
vendors...the vendors would just get a map saying "put the tape here"
without any knowledge of why.
Post by JF Mezei
However, would the contractor own the tape layup machine and ovens ?
Yes, I believe so.
Post by JF Mezei
If so, then perhaps it should be possible for that contractor to bid for
Airbus contrats where Airbus would provide the drums as well as the
software to define how the carbon is layed on that drum.
Not necessarily. Even if the vendor owns the layup machine and ovens, if
Boeing developed the technology that makes them possible the use of them is
still proprietary to Boeing. So far as I know, there's nothing special
about the ovens except their size, so they're probably up for grabs, but
there may be some proprietary stuff in the layup machines. How the layouts
are designed is certainly proprietary.

Tom.
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AdenOne
2007-01-30 10:02:45 UTC
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Boeing has extensive patents on its all-composite single piece
fuselage barrels, similar to the cantilever 777 engine pylons which
Airbus is not allowed to use. This would make it difficult for Airbus
unless they develop a very different way of constructing the fuse
barrels. And I know as a fact Boeing's patents cover not only the
current 787 process, but also a few alternatives... Looks like Airbus
is in a bit of trouble unless they have kept their new process secret
so far.
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JF Mezei
2007-01-30 10:23:22 UTC
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Post by AdenOne
Boeing has extensive patents on its all-composite single piece
fuselage barrels, similar to the cantilever 777 engine pylons which
Airbus is not allowed to use. This would make it difficult for Airbus
unless they develop a very different way of constructing the fuse
barrels.
I am sure Boeing has patents on the data that describes the way the tape
was applied on the barrel, at what angles, how many layers etc. But if it
is off-the-shelf carbon fibre and resin, they don't have patents on that.

And if the prep-preg strands of carbon fibre were already commercially
available, I would assume that the tape laying machine would also have been
commercially available.

Also, one needs to consider that much of the R&D done on single piece
carbon fuselages was actually done by NASA (contracted to Boeing, but it
was a NASA contract). So I am not sure how much Boeing really owns in terms
of patents on the process. Would Boeing have been allowed to take publicly
funded research and convert it to a patent owned by Boeing ?

But it is a given that Airbus will need to compose its own tape laying
designs based on the exact shape of its fuselage and various "unround" shapes.

My uneducated guess is that they could use the same general assembly
method, but would need to make up their own data/program to instruct the
tape laying robot how/where to apply the carbon fibre. And they'll need to
design their own ribbing and interior structure and how it is
integrated/glued to the fuselage cyclinder.

Or they could go with a totally different process such as using fabric cut
by computer to fit the exact spots where it is needed. (not sure how good
that would be).

Or it could be a hybrid system. One piece fuselage barrels for the round
sections, but panels for those more complex areas of the aircraft.


The mere fact that there is still speculation about what the 350 will
really be like is very bad for Airbus. It means that nobody will order the
350 until Airbus presents specs that are credible and the 350 seen as being
truly equal or better than the 350.

As long as the 350 is seen as technologically inferior to the 350 and
Airbus playing with numbers to make it look better, I think there will be
speculation/hope that Airbus will update its specs to make it truly
competitive.

If Airbus has something up its sleeve that is truly better, I wonder if it
might decide to wait until the 787 gets FAA certification and goes into
real production before letting the cat out of the bag. This way, there
would be reasonable assurance Boeing couldn't make last minute changes to
match whatever Magic Airbus might have come up with.

Or perhaps Airbus is really truly out of steam and incapable of matching
Boeing, either because of lack of imagination, time, money or combination
thereof.
.
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Tom Sanderson
2007-01-30 15:51:36 UTC
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Post by JF Mezei
I am sure Boeing has patents on the data that describes the way the tape
was applied on the barrel, at what angles, how many layers etc.
I would be shocked if they have a patent on that. A patent, by definition,
is public info. The precise fiber layup of a fuselage plug should be deep
into trade secret territory.
Post by JF Mezei
But if it is off-the-shelf carbon fibre and resin, they don't have
patents on that.
I believe the fibre is off the shelf...the resin isn't. Boeing developed
the 787 resin system explicitely for this project. Even if they're both off
the shelf, they could patent the way they're combined, the process to make
the prepreg, etc.
Post by JF Mezei
And if the prep-preg strands of carbon fibre were already commercially
available, I would assume that the tape laying machine would also have
been commercially available.
Not necessarily. Outside aerospace, there isn't a big demand for a tape
layer with that large of a working envelope. I'm sure a layup machine for
surf boards or mufflers is relatively easy to come by...one that can do a
whole wing panel is a different beast entirely.
Post by JF Mezei
Also, one needs to consider that much of the R&D done on single piece
carbon fuselages was actually done by NASA
That was on composite empennage, not fuselage. Both Boeing and Airbus are
very comfortable with composite empennage.
Post by JF Mezei
My uneducated guess is that they could use the same general assembly
method, but would need to make up their own data/program to instruct the
tape laying robot how/where to apply the carbon fibre. And they'll need to
design their own ribbing and interior structure and how it is
integrated/glued to the fuselage cyclinder.
They not only have to develop it themselves, they have to make sure they
don't step on any existing Boeing patents. If Boeing did their homework
right, they covered all the obvious applications of whatever they patented.
Not that that would stop Airbus, but it would put a lot of lawyers' kids
through college.
Post by JF Mezei
Or they could go with a totally different process such as using fabric cut
by computer to fit the exact spots where it is needed. (not sure how good
that would be).
It works fine (it's how the Cirrus is built), but it's not as efficient as
using tape and it's much more labour intensive.

Tom.
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AdenOne
2007-01-30 21:48:29 UTC
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Post by JF Mezei
The mere fact that there is still speculation about what the 350 will
really be like is very bad for Airbus. It means that nobody will order the
350 until Airbus presents specs that are credible and the 350 seen as being
truly equal or better than the 350.
This is bad new for Airbus. Possibly much worse than the A380gate
scandal. They need to decide on a design, freeze it and start
building!!
Post by JF Mezei
Or perhaps Airbus is really truly out of steam and incapable of matching
Boeing, either because of lack of imagination, time, money or combination
thereof.
I wonder what the chances of Airbus dissapearing completely? Would be
sad, even for Boeing fanatics. If the 350 fails, Airbus is in REAL hot
water!
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Tom Sanderson
2007-01-31 15:48:50 UTC
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Post by AdenOne
I wonder what the chances of Airbus dissapearing completely?
Zero, at least until another viable competitor comes along. The airlines
would never tolerate a Boeing monopoly and the Europeans would never
tolerate having their flagship fold (and the concurrent loss of
manufacturing ability).

The closest that I think we'll see Airbus get to disappearing in the next
10-15 years is a merger with another design outfit...possibily the Russians.
Post by AdenOne
If the 350 fails, Airbus is in REAL hot water!
True, but if the 787 fails, Boeing could be gone. They're both in this up
to their necks.

Tom.
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JF Mezei
2007-01-31 17:11:21 UTC
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Post by Tom Sanderson
The closest that I think we'll see Airbus get to disappearing in the next
10-15 years is a merger with another design outfit...possibily the Russians.
Airbus is doing well with its narrowbody aircraft. So those are very
likely going to survive no matter what.

Currently, Airbus is but a token competitor for the medium and jumbo
widebodies. So even if it sells no widebody aircraft, it is still
considered a valid competitor and thus no real "anti trust" issues.
Once all 330s have been delivered though, with Airbus no longer delivering
any widebody aircraft, then anti trust issues might arise.


My guess is that as long as Airbus has some 30 real hard orders for the
A380, it will go ahead and produce them. Even if Airbus gets only $100
million per aircraft, that is still some 3 billion dollars in cash flow.

The 380 is too close to generating revenue to be cancelled. But the 350 is
another story.

If Airbus really gets that desperate, then letting the Russians invest in
Airbus may save it. But at the cost of moving jobs from
France/Germany/UK/Spain to Russia.


The problem is that the EU has set some pretty strict standards in terms of
subsidies. (not strict enough to please Boeing, but still pretty strict).
It would probably take the EU government to pass some law to allow some
extraordinary bailout money to get Airbus back on track. And each country
where Airbus has a stake would be asked to put money in the hat or see jobs
moved to countries that did put money in the hat. I think this would get
VERY ugly. And it would also put Airbus back into firm government controls.

The real solution in the long term must involve both french and german
governments giving up their "stakes" in EADS/Airbus and let it go fully
private. If they want to maintain jobs in their country, they will have to
do like what US States/cities do: give Airbus incentives to locate in their
area, but let Airbus choose privately where to do what, what to outsource etc.


Right now, EADS is not a hot stock. But once the 380 starts to generate
revenu, and if the 350 starts to generate real sales, then its stock might
become attractive enough to enable current shareholders to divest from
their controlling stake and have the general public buy into EADS and
totally forget about the german/french balance thing. I.E. turn EADS into
a widely held corporation where governments no longer had a direct say into
its decisions.
Post by Tom Sanderson
True, but if the 787 fails, Boeing could be gone. They're both in this up
to their necks.
With 400 orders on the line (and many more once you add AA and DL and
possibly UA), Boeing probably has unlimited budgets to make the 787 work.
They have no choice.

If the all composite fuselage ends up not being flight worthy, my guess is
that Boeing could switch to aluminium structure to make it flight worthy
and still deliver before Airbus could deliver the 350.

And in terms of the bleed-less systems, I don't think those would be show
stoppers. In my opinion, worse case scenario is that they don't provide the
performance boost that had been anticipated and end up being less efficient
overall than traditional bleed-air systems. But this would likely be
minimal enough of a drawback to still keep the 787 in a strong competitive
position against whatever Airbus is able to concuct.

My worry is how the fuselage will behave in the long term. (eg: 10 years
from now, will hundreds of 787s have to be grounded because of
delamination, cracks or other deterioration of the fuselage ?

We'll see soon enough. Once the first item is assembled, my guess is that
Boeing will have a pretty good idea of the viability of the whole concept.
If first flighst goes agead in August as planned, then it means that the
787 has no real show stoppers.
.
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Daniel
2007-01-31 19:03:22 UTC
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Post by JF Mezei
If Airbus really gets that desperate, then letting the Russians invest in
Airbus may save it. But at the cost of moving jobs from
France/Germany/UK/Spain to Russia.
The problem is that the EU has set some pretty strict standards in terms of
subsidies. (not strict enough to please Boeing, but still pretty strict).
It would probably take the EU government to pass some law to allow some
extraordinary bailout money to get Airbus back on track. And each country
where Airbus has a stake would be asked to put money in the hat or see jobs
moved to countries that did put money in the hat. I think this would get
VERY ugly. And it would also put Airbus back into firm government controls.
There's nothing to prevent financial institutions linked to
governments to 'unwisely invest' into EADS forever. Think of Sogeade,
Caisse des depots, pool of German banks, Russian gvt banks or public
aerospace consolidation. Those are deep pockets. Plus, you can always
state there is a market for 1,200 A380s over the next 50 years and
avoid dumping complaints. BTW, seems an A330 can be had for 90m$ these
days..., or is it because of 'compensations' for failing to deliver a
product already dumped (if you don't believe there's a market for 420+
whalejets)?
Post by JF Mezei
Right now, EADS is not a hot stock. But once the 380 starts to generate
revenu, and if the 350 starts to generate real sales, then its stock might
become attractive enough to enable current shareholders to divest from
their controlling stake and have the general public buy into EADS and
totally forget about the german/french balance thing. I.E. turn EADS into
a widely held corporation where governments no longer had a direct say into
its decisions.
They can't let go. EADS is first and foremost a military industrial
consolidation. An Airbus spin-off would be required to let foreigners
on the board. Then perhaps, Russians could join. Or, Russia joins NATO
(or France and Germany leave it)? How likely is that?
Post by JF Mezei
We'll see soon enough. Once the first item is assembled, my guess is that
Boeing will have a pretty good idea of the viability of the whole concept.
If first flighst goes agead in August as planned, then it means that the
787 has no real show stoppers.
This is History in the making. From wood/plywood to aluminum to
composites. First flight will be celebrated like that of Mod 247.
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Tom Sanderson
2007-02-01 15:10:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by JF Mezei
My guess is that as long as Airbus has some 30 real hard orders for the
A380, it will go ahead and produce them.
Agreed. Purely from a PR point of view, Airbus can't can the A380.
Post by JF Mezei
Even if Airbus gets only $100 million per aircraft, that is still some 3
billion dollars in cash flow.
Only if Airbus has to pay less than $100 million per aircraft in production
cost. Cash flow in doesn't do any good if it's going right out the door
again. Suppliers and workers don't tend to take well to deferred payment.
Post by JF Mezei
Post by Tom Sanderson
True, but if the 787 fails, Boeing could be gone. They're both in this
up to their necks.
With 400 orders on the line (and many more once you add AA and DL and
possibly UA), Boeing probably has unlimited budgets to make the 787 work.
They have no choice.
Agreed. Last week, a Wachovia analyst said "The 787 will either be late or
over budget" and all of Boeing's top management swears on a stack of Bibles
that it won't be late so...functionally unlimited budget, so long as they
stay on schedule. 787 is starting to bulk up their staffing again, which is
a good sign of more money coming down the pipe.
Post by JF Mezei
If the all composite fuselage ends up not being flight worthy, my guess is
that Boeing could switch to aluminium structure to make it flight worthy
and still deliver before Airbus could deliver the 350.
Nope. You'd need to redesign everything, build all new tooling, start your
structural testing all over, and start your certification from scratch. And
cancel a whole bunch of your sales because you'd never make your
performance, maintenance, or cost targets. Switching from composite to
aluminum would set the program back almost to zero...all they'd have is the
mold lines.
Post by JF Mezei
And in terms of the bleed-less systems, I don't think those would be show
stoppers. In my opinion, worse case scenario is that they don't provide
the performance boost that had been anticipated and end up being less
efficient overall than traditional bleed-air systems.
Could well be. There's a lot of ways the system could pay off, even if it's
not as efficient...lighter (probably not, but theoretically possible), less
expensive to maintain (almost certainly), easier to upgrade (upmost
certainly), etc.
Post by JF Mezei
My worry is how the fuselage will behave in the long term. (eg: 10 years
from now, will hundreds of 787s have to be grounded because of
delamination, cracks or other deterioration of the fuselage ?
Don't see any real reason why...all of the other composite primary
structures out there in the world today (777 empennage & floor beams, thrust
reversers on several models, GE fan blades) have survived much better than
their designers expected.
Post by JF Mezei
If first flighst goes agead in August as planned, then it means that the
787 has no real show stoppers.
The one that might totally screw it up is flutter. Flutter analysis is a
black art, at best, when you're working with aluminum. Structural analysis
of composites is much harder. The Boeing aero guys are about as good as
they come, but they're heading off into uncharted territory with a large
composite wing.

Tom.
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jbaloun
2007-02-01 18:08:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tom Sanderson
The one that might totally screw it up is flutter. Flutter analysis is a
black art, at best, when you're working with aluminum. Structural analysis
of composites is much harder. The Boeing aero guys are about as good as
they come, but they're heading off into uncharted territory with a large
composite wing.
Tom.
Composite materials have advantages over metals but after all other
(material, load, geometry, fabrication...) requirements are met they
tend to have a lower modulus of elasticity. They end up bending more
under load. As you say flutter analysis is a black art made more
difficult by the combination of composites bending a little more and
how that plays into aeroelasticity of the aircraft.

Sometimes a space contraint on a structure can steer the design into
being strain critical rather than stress critical. If you get too far
to the side of strain critical you may find the solution tends to get
heavier and heavier. I am sure the Boeing engineers approached the
design very carefully to let the structure bend in a way that does not
interfere with the performance. Notice how the illustrations of the
787 show a very bowed wing. As in all complex aircraft The wing twist
would be carefully controlled (for composites by how the plies are
oriented in the wing) to make the wing want to stay still all the way
to the tip. We will see if they got it right in flight test and
envelope expansion.

A few aerodynamic tweaks would be expected. If aerodynamic or flutter
problems are more significant but solvable we may hear that during
flight test they have to make slight adjustments to the stability or
load alleviation software. Hopefully any solution will not require
extensive use of vortex generators or strakes. These devices can be
used to avoid problems or improve performance but I hope that an
aircraft can fly efficiently as designed without the aero devices. I
just looks cleaner.

I recall that the 777 needed a tweak to the yaw stability but I do not
remember any other adjustments.

James
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