New UK clean room facility contributes to Aircelle’s nacelle production ramp-up

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The use of robots modernizes Aircelle Ltd.'s production of the composite inner fixed structure (IFS) for A320neo nacelles at the company's new Burnley, UK clean room.

February 5, 2016

Aircelle's newly-inaugurated UK composites clean room is another element in the company's extensive production preparations for engine nacelles on the twin-engine Airbus A320neo – a jetliner program requiring the most rapid production ramp-up ever for the civil aviation industry.

This new industrial resource, located at Aircelle Ltd.'s Burnley facility in Lancashire, England, will manufacture carbon fiber composite structures; in particular, the nacelle inner fixed structure (IFS) for CFM International LEAP-1A engines on Airbus' new-generation A320neo (new engine option) single-aisle airliners.

"During the past four years, Aircelle has been implementing major enhancements throughout our company to achieve the record production ramp-up, while maintaining the highest levels of product quality and being able to deliver engine nacelles that are mature from the A320neo's entry into service," said Philip Moressee, Aircelle's Industrial Vice President. "This is why Aircelle has made significant investments in its facilities, as is obvious with the new clean room here at Burnley."

Moressee said these enhancements cover all the ways of working at Aircelle, from methods used in development to how the company trains employees and operates its production sites.

Robotic carbon fiber placement replaces manual layup

For the Burnley clean room, Aircelle is applying advanced processes such as the increased use of automation – including robotic fiber placement machines for the lay-up of composite material. The automated fiber placement replaces manual procedures used since the introduction of composites in the aviation industry. The first of two machines already is in place at the UK location, and a second will be delivered later in 2016.

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The first of two robotic fiber placement machines for the lay-up of composite material has been installed in Aircelle Ltd.'s new clean room facility.

To improve how employees work, Aircelle Ltd. will be installing a total of six scissor-lift workstations beginning in April that facilitate access to the IFS components during production, significantly improving the ergonomics and optimizing the production flow.

Moressee added that another enhancement may not be as visible, but is extremely important for Aircelle Ltd. and the Burnley operation. "With this new clean room, Burnley will be at the top level of production capability for composite structures within Aircelle's industrial network," he explained. "It will be utilizing the latest technologies and processes, similar to what is employed across our company's other sites. In addition to meeting the A320neo program's production demands of today, this puts Burnley in a good position for Aircelle's composite production needs of the future."

Aircelle Ltd. also is benefitting from UK government support through funding from the country's Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI), created to help rebuild British manufacturing capabilities. With AMSCI backing, Aircelle Ltd. will be leading a project with Cornwall-based Composite Integration and the University of Nottingham to develop a UK nacelle structures center of excellence at Burnley.

The Aircelle Ltd. operation has played an important role in Aircelle's overall industrial system, which is continuing with the A320neo program and the new widebody Airbus A330neo jetliner – for which Burnley is tasked with producing panels for the nacelle's inner fixed structure. Aircelle Ltd. also is assigned assembly/integration of the A330neo's complete thrust reverser, extending the tasks it currently has for A330ceo (current engine option) aircraft equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines.

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