Structure assembly work at Airbus

10/08/2017 Blog

ARTS structural mechanics on the A380 Final Assembly Line

The wide range of areas in which ARTS operates comes as no surprise to most of its employees, as Benjamin Kapahnke can confirm from his extensive and varied deployments. As a structur specialist, he has worked for ARTS for over a decade. Before that, he was employed as a metalworker by the Army aviation corps: the Army gave him his passion for aviation, which he still retains today. “Immediately after I qualified, ARTS gave me the opportunity to be deployed as structur specialist at the aircraft manufacturer, Airbus in Toulouse – a great project to work on and a brilliant challenge.” At the time, the specified dimensions of aircraft components for the Airbus A380 were too thin, causing structural problems during the test flight that required modifications: the affected parts required a skin repair and replacement. During this time, working processes represented quite a challenge, as the project involved carrying out final assembly as the process was evolving. 

Following the overhaul and further test flights, additional project work was required: the structur team replaced seat rails that had been torn following the test flight and swapped out defective ventilation tubes, valves, and floor panels. The ARTS team in Toulouse also took on additional work, such as the fitting of waste and fresh water pipes and fitting floor plates, as these were no longer undertaken in Hamburg.

Structur assembly and quality management on A350 with ARTS
© AIRBUS S.A.S. 2012 - photo by e*m company / H. GOUSSÉ

Experts in technology for producing carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP)

Benjamin can look back on an impressive resumé or project work in both France and Germany. The town of Stade is home to the research centre into carbon fibre reinforced plastic, where the vertical stabilisers for the entire Airbus fleet are produced using automated workflows. As structur specialist, he worked alongside other ARTS experts on the 450 metre-long, ultra-modern vertical stabiliser assembly line in a variety of different process stages.

As the vertical stabilisers are made entirely out of CFRP, structur experts specialising in CFRP technology are essential. Benjamin’s experience of working with structural CFRP components extends beyond his training into repair work on floor panels, which are partially made of CFRP. in Toulouse. The composite material is designed to achieve a high level of stiffness while maintaining a low weight. As such, it behaves quite differently from metal during the production process, so that CFRP experts like Benjamin need to deploy specific work and repair techniques to avoid damage to the laminate.

Structur assembly and quality management on the Airbus A350 in Hamburg

With the A350, there are a number of automated steps during the production process. This includes a semi-automatic drill unit deployed in Hamburg to drill brackets (which will soon be produced by 3D printing) into the desired position. Regardless whether the boreholes to be drilled are large or small, they are virtually perfect with the ADU. The brackets, which act as connectors between different aircraft sections, are attached to the CFRP structure by Benjamin and his project team using a two-component adhesive. These brackets are essential to the aircraft production process, as they provide the benefit that relatively few people are required to work on each section, reducing the time taken to manufacture the aircraft as a whole.

Benjamin also coordinates the work of the project team; all project tasks are recorded in the “Shop Floor Interface” SAP system. This is a significant step in the process of ensuring that all guidelines are followed. Production incidents are also recorded in the SAP system in detail, while Benjamin’s quality control duties within his own team involve using a plug gauge to check the bore holes to ensure that the team’s services, such as attaching the brackets, are delivered to the correct standards.

Routine is not something that Benjamin and his team experience, due to the highly varied nature of their project work on the A350. Because of the constant flow of A350 fuselage production, there are always new issues to address.

“From that perspective, each aircraft is a unique project in its own right, and that means that the project work varies for us as well,” explains Benjamin.

ARTS Experts in technology for producing carbon fibre reinforced plastic

Teamwork and Lean Management in the aviation sector

What makes project work so special for Benjamin is the ability to work alongside colleagues. Team members are each responsible for their own work package, but all of them have a common goal in mind: to complete assembly of the aircraft on time. Teamwork makes it possible for team members to rely on their colleagues’ knowledge to deal with problems and questions as they arise and to complete their duties on time. Alongside his team, ARTS is a firm fixture in Benjamin’s life. For this expert, ARTS is not just another company. Marking the occasion of his ten years’ service, Benjamin says that “ARTS has made it possible for me to feel confident in all aspects of my life.”

The exacting precisely described project process and the ability to see the finished product from end to end are what make this structur specialist’s work so rewarding for him. At Airbus (and at ARTS as well), Lean Management is a major topic. The materials for the job are always waiting at their assigned spot and everyone knows where the necessary tools and materials are located. This reduces waste while making the process both simpler and easier on the workers.

ARTS expert teams are deployed worldwide

Experts like Benjamin Kapahnke are engaged by ARTS all over the world, working on projects for leading MRO businesses, airlines, suppliers and manufacturers such as Airbus. Individually created project teams provide support to structur assembly operations as well as mechanical and electrical fitting and installations and repairs. In the fields of avionics, systems and airframe assembly and MRO, they undertake Service Bulletin Installations, such as the door modification to the Airbus A380 or aircraft upgrade projects, such as exchanging the seat rails on the A330 and A380.

Individuals such as Benjamin Kapahnke are a huge benefit to ARTS, and their expertise is what makes it possible for ARTS to improve our customers’ processes and performance.

We’d like to thank Benjamin Kapahnke for his long service and look forward to many more years of working together on exciting, new projects.

Sources: | | Mobile Aircraft Maintenance Crew 

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