Benjamin Kapahnke has worked as a structur specialist on a wide variety of projects for ARTS within the Airbus sphere for over a decade. As he marks this milestone in his long employment history, we have taken the opportunity to present more information about him and his role as a structur expert, team member with responsibility for quality control, and master craftsman.
My working environment is as varied as that of my colleagues at ARTS. As a structural mechanic, I had been employed at ARTS for more than ten years. Before ARTS, I was a metalworker with the army aviators - the German Armed Forces awakened my passion for the industry in me and it continues to this day. At that time, aircraft components of the Airbus A380 were too thin - this caused structural problems during the test flight - a modification was necessary: The affected components had to be replaced with a new skin repair. In this case, the work process was quite a challenge, as the project work had to be carried out while the final assembly process was still in progress.
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.
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.
My project history stretches from France to Germany. In Stade, the research center for carbon fiber (CFRP) composites, the vertical stabilizers for the entire Airbus fleet are produced in automated steps. Here I was involved with other ARTS experts in various process steps on the 450 meter long, state-of-the-art production line for vertical stabilizers.
Since the vertical stabilizers are manufactured entirely from CFRP, structural experts in the field of CFRP technology are indispensable. I know structural work with the CFRP material not only from my training but also from repair work on the floor panels, some of which are made of CFRP, in Toulouse. The composite material achieves a high level of stiffness with a simultaneous low mass. For this reason, it behaves quite differently from metal during processing, so that CFRP experts like myself have to use special working and repair techniques to avoid damaging the lamination.
The A350 has many automated steps within the production process: Among other things, a semi-automatic drill unit (ADU) is used in Hamburg to drill special brackets, soon to be produced in 3D printing, to the desired position. No matter whether drilling for small or large holes, with the ADC they are almost perfect. The holders, which are the connecting element between the individual aircraft sections, were attached to the CFRP structure by me and my project team using a two-component adhesive. Only the composite material enables the holders to be bonded. One advantage of the adhesive is that the structure is not weakened and there is no corrosion. The brackets are essential for aircraft production because they offer the advantage that not countless people are working on one section, thus enabling faster production of the aircraft.
I also coordinated the work in the project team - all project orders were entered by me into the SAP system "Shop-Floor Interface". This is a key process step in checking whether all guidelines are being adhered to. Complaints are also logged precisely in the SAP system. In order to ensure the standards of the service provided, such as the attachment of the holders, I also checked the drill holes with the help of a limit gauge as a self-inspector.
Routine was rare in my team, because the project work on the A350 is very varied. The fact that the shells of the Airbus A350 are baked means that there are always tolerances.
For me, the special thing about project work is the cooperation with colleagues. Each colleague is responsible for his or her own work package, but all employees have the common goal in mind - to have the aircraft ready on time. Teamwork enables the employees to access the knowledge of the other colleagues in case of questions and problems and to complete the work order in time.
For me as a structural mechanic, the exact, precisely described project procedure and the fact that in the end everything is put in order is what makes aerospace so appealing. At Airbus - but also at ARTS - lean management is a top priority. Working materials are in their designated place and everyone knows where the tool and material they are looking for is located. Waste is thus prevented and the work process is made easier.
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.