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Airbus Expands MRO Footprint In Asia

Airbus Expands MRO Footprint In Asia

Following separate announcements by Asia Digital Engineering Sdn BhD (ADE) and Korea Aviation Engineering & Maintenance Service Ltd. (KAEMS) for Airbus customers in Asia, Mathew George, Ph.D, Analyst, Aerospace, Defense and Security at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:

“AirAsia Group’s ADE and KAI’s KAEMS made separate announcements on the expansion of maintenance, repairs and overhaul (MRO), thus marking an increased footprint for Airbus customers to avail MRO services in Asia. With the pandemic still wreaking havoc, airlines and countries had put on hold the programs to purchase new aircraft and make sure that the lives of the present aircraft be extended safely as much as possible. Countries, including India, actively started to explore MRO services and proposed the possible mechanisms and programs to turn themselves into regional MRO hubs.

According to GlobalData, the military aerospace MRO market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.93 percent in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region between 2020 and 2030 and will be valued at US$17.85bn by 2030.

While ADE obtained the approval for base maintenance (hangar or C-Checks) from Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM), KAEMS was able to sign an MoU with Airbus Defense & Space (ADS) for technical support for C-212 and CN-235 aircraft. ADE’s support extends not just to AirAsia fleet of A320, A321 and A330 aircraft, the approval allows it to undertake MRO services for other airlines as well. ADE was also able to secure approvals from India’s DGCA and Indonesia, raising the bar for ADE and Malaysia to provide MRO services for airlines across Southeast Asia.

Governments have shown their resolve to fund upgrade and replacement programs. However, with lockdowns continuing in countries, and increasing cases like India’s still a possibility in other geographies, airlines and governments will continue to focus on sustainment of existing capability. In addition, with long lead times and unexpected delays still a possibility, a lackadaisical approach to MRO is not something anyone can afford.”

 

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Thai Airways To Move Ahead With MRO Project Despite Airbus Dropout

Thai Airways To Move Ahead With MRO Project Despite Airbus Dropout

With the worsening worldwide pandemic, European planemaker, Airbus, has decided to pull out of the joint venture with Thai Airways International to develop a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility at Rayong’s U-Tapao Airport. However, Thai Airways has announced that it will press ahead with the project, either on its own or with a new partner.

This 11-billion-baht MRO facility was part of the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) mega-investment project to promote Thailand as an aviation and MRO hub in the region. The planned MRO hub would feature the latest digital technologies and was set for completion in 2022-2023.

Unfortunately, with global air traffic practically brought to a standstill, Airbus has been hit hard by the crisis and will be dropping out of the project investment—although the company will still cooperate on technology.

Thai Airways remains hopeful as there is time to find a new partner with construction still in its early stages and that Airbus or Boeing would come back in after the pandemic eases.

 

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Airbus Commits To Continued Automation Of Its Manufacturing Line

Airbus Commits To Continued Automation Of Its Manufacturing Line

Airbus has acquired industrial automation company, MTM Robotics which deepens Airbus’ commitment to expanding advanced robotics capabilities within its manufacturing processes.

“We are pleased and excited to become a part of the Airbus family and look forward to further integrating our products and approaches into the Airbus industrialisation chain, “said MTM founder, Mike Woogerd.

The acquisition is the latest chapter in a trusted, ten-year-plus relationship between the companies, with multiple MTM light automated robotics systems currently in use at Airbus manufacturing facilities. While MTM will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Airbus Americas, Inc., headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, it will continue to serve other customers in the aerospace industry.

The acquisition marks the latest step for Airbus in its industrialisation roadmap, aimed at leveraging the time- and cost-saving benefits associated with using robotics in the manufacture and assembly of its commercial aircraft.

“The competitiveness of tomorrow will be determined by both designing the best aircraft and by building the most efficient manufacturing system, in parallel,” said Michael Schoellhorn, Airbus Chief Operating Officer.

“Automation & robotics are central to our industrial strategy. We are very happy to welcome MTM Robotics as a family member and take a step forward on this exciting endeavour together,” he continued.

“Airbus and MTM Robotics each believe that tomorrow’s automation in aircraft manufacturing can and must be lighter, more portable and less capital intensive,” explained Vigié.  “By joining our efforts and skills, we are well positioned to establish industrywide standards for the factory of tomorrow,” said Patrick Vigié, Head of Industrial Technologies at Airbus.

 

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Autodesk And Airbus Demonstrate Impact Of Generative Design On The Aerospace Industry

Autodesk and Airbus Demonstrate Impact Of Generative Design On The Aerospace Industry

Autodesk and Airbus are teaming up to fundamentally change how things will be manufactured and built in the aerospace industry of the near future. As part of an ongoing effort, Airbus is reimagining multiple structural aircraft components, applying Autodesk generative design to develop lighter-weight parts that exceed performance and safety standards. In an industry where less weight equals less fuel consumption, using this approach presents a huge opportunity to reduce the adverse effects of air travel on the environment.

Airbus is also looking beyond airplane parts to the processes and spaces for making them, employing generative design for the layout of adaptable, DGNB and LEED certified factories with streamlined logistics to facilitate improved employee work conditions and greater productivity.

Bionic Partition 2.0

Back in 2015, Airbus unveiled its first generative design proof-of-concept. The “bionic partition” is a next-generation version of the wall and jumpseat support structure that divides the passenger compartment from the galley of a plane.

The initial design was promising – 45 percent lighter than the traditional part yet just as strong. Airbus estimated the new design approach could save nearly half a million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year if rolled out across its backlog of A320 planes.

Originally the intention was to fabricate the new partition using metal additive manufacturing. But due to a range of variables in the manufacturing market and materials requirements, it became clear that an alternative fabrication process would be necessary. Fortunately, Autodesk generative design technology has continued to mature and is now capable of optimising for multiple advanced manufacturing techniques during the design phase of product development.

For Airbus, this meant they could use generative design to create a plastic, 3D-printed mold for the partition, and then cast the part in an alloy that’s already qualified for flight. Bionic partition 2.0 is just as strong and light as its predecessor and can be fabricated at scale more affordably.

“The revised design makes the bionic partition much more viable for production. The first prototype is in production, which we hope to finish before the end of the year,” said Bastian Schaefer, the designer at Airbus who has been leading the collaboration with Autodesk. “The process and technology have evolved to where we can now manufacture multiple units at a considerably lower cost.”

Airbus is in the process of utilising generative design to rethink other structural aircraft components, including the leading edge of the vertical tail plane (VTP) of the A320. The purpose of a VTP (or vertical stabiliser) on an airplane is to provide directional stability and reduce aerodynamic inefficiency caused by side-to-side movement.

Generative design is enabling the team to evaluate hundreds of design alternatives that all meet objectives for VTP stiffness, stability and mass.

Factory of the Future

Positive responses to what generative design could do for aircraft components led Airbus to explore what the technology might do for other parts of its business. Earlier this year, the team began thinking about how generative design could be applied to the building design, layout and workflows of its factories.

Generative design provided two paths that Airbus is currently considering: a bigger building with an unconventional footprint, or the same factory elements optimised to fit into a smaller rectangular footprint.

“Generative design is helping us create a more sustainable architectural design that better accounts for critical human factors and work conditions,” said Schaefer. “It has also expanded our way of thinking and our approach to design by overcoming preconceived notions and blind spots. Whichever design we choose, we know the factory will function more efficiently and will be less costly to build.”

By Raymond Deplazes

 

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Airbus Opens Automated A320 Assembly Line

Airbus Opens Automated A320 Assembly Line

Airbus has inaugurated its highly automated fuselage structure assembly line for A320 Family aircraft in Hamburg, showcasing an evolution in Airbus’ industrial production system.

With a special focus on manufacturing longer sections for the A321LR, the new facility features 20 robots, a new logistics concept, automated positioning by laser measurement as well as a digital data acquisition system. These will further support Airbus’ drive to improve both quality and efficiency while bringing an enhanced level of digitalisation to its industrial production system.

“By embracing some of the latest technologies and processes, Airbus has begun its journey to set new standards in A320 Family production. This new fuselage structure assembly line is an essential enabler for the A320 Family ramp-up. Increasing the level of automation and robotics enables faster, more efficient manufacturing while keeping our prime focus on quality,” said Michael Schoellhorn, Airbus Chief Operating Officer.

For the initial section assembly, Airbus is using a modular, lightweight automated system, called “Flextrack”, with eight robots drilling and counter-sinking 1,100 to 2,400 holes per longitudinal joint. In the next production step, 12 robots, each operating on seven axes, combine the centre and aft fuselage sections with the tail to form one major component, drilling, counter-sinking, sealing and inserting 3,000 rivets per orbital joint.

Besides the use of robots, Airbus is also implementing new methods and technologies in material and parts logistics to optimise production, improve ergonomics and shorten lead times. This includes the separation of logistics and production levels, demand-oriented material replenishment as well as the use of autonomous guided vehicles.

The Hamburg structure assembly facility is responsible for joining single fuselage shells into sections, as well as final assembly of single sections to aircraft fuselages. Aircraft parts are equipped with electrical and mechanical systems before eventually being delivered to the final assembly lines in France, Germany, China and the U.S.

 

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Airbus Taps Hexagon Subsidiary To Reduce Development Lead Time

Airbus Taps Hexagon Subsidiary To Reduce Development Lead Time

Hexagon subsidiary MSC Software has been selected by Airbus Group, as part of their digital transformation, to reduce development lead time by implementing an End-to-End materials management platform, MaterialCenter. Airbus intends to provide access to a one single material raw data database for Airbus Group and across its divisions.

MaterialCenter provides a complete solution for the current and future needs of aerospace materials data and process management. Designed to manage the complete materials workflow as the single point of entry for all materials related activities, it guarantees that engineers use a consistent source of approved materials derived from traceable integrated processes, resulting in improved simulation fidelity, reduced data loss and elimination of tedious manual data management activities.

MaterialCenter is highly scalable and perfectly suited to support the large number of users and the big amount of data generated and used by Airbus to engineer metallic and composite systems.

“We are extremely proud that MaterialCenter has been selected by Airbus as the End-to-End Materials Management Platform for the Group. We are looking forward to a strong, long-term partnership with Airbus as we implement and deploy MaterialCenter across the group.  This will enable an effective and efficient use of materials and materials data to drive innovative and high-quality product development,” said Roger A. Assaker, CEO of e-Xstream engineering and Chief Materials Strategist of MSC Software.

MaterialCenter is part of a comprehensive 10x Materials Solution that covers (virtual) material development, (virtual) materials testing, standard and advanced (multi-scale) material modelling serving all the major Finite Element Analysis software, effect of manufacturing (e.g. additive manufacturing (AM), automatic fibre placement, etc.), effect of defects, digital continuity and material-centric digital-twin, artificial intelligence (AI), compliance and sustainability.

 

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Renewed Competition Between Airbus And Boeing To Fuel Commercial Aircraft Production Growth In 2019

Renewed Competition Between Airbus And Boeing To Fuel Commercial Aircraft Production Growth In 2019

The revival of competition between Boeing and Airbus is expected to result in record delivery of the highly popular narrow-body platforms and a 9.4 percent year-on-year growth in the global commercial aircraft production in 2019. Boeing and Airbus will produce more than 1,750 aircraft this year, up from 1,606 units in 2018, and propel the market towards $258.95 billion, according to a new report from market analyst Frost & Sullivan.

Boeing will receive a boost once it finalises its deal for Embraer’s airliner business in 2019 to counter Airbus’s acquisition of Bombardier’s C Series programme; it will continue to develop its new mid-market aircraft (NMA) platform and position itself for growth in next-generation markets.

“Aircraft OEMs and suppliers will continue to focus on digitalisation of platforms for streamlining flight operations, planning and scheduling, sales and distribution, marketing, disruption management, and technical operations,” said Timothy Kuder, research analyst, Aerospace & Defence, at Frost & Sullivan. “Top aerospace companies as well as entrants are investing in R&D centred on electrical propulsion, generation, distribution, storage, and conversion.”

Kruder said Asia-Pacific will experience the highest growth in terms of aircraft deliveries and will sustain this position in the future. However, North America and Europe will continue to be the largest suppliers of aircraft. “In terms of technologies, advanced composite materials, additive manufacturing, and electrification will disrupt the design and construction of platforms, while digitalisation of aviation has already evolved into a $1.5 billion business,” he said.

For additional growth opportunities, aircraft suppliers and MRO facilities are expected to look to adopt digital technologies like blockchain, which can contribute to the mandated traceability requirements of many aerospace digital services; develop technologies such as fibre metal laminate (FML); seek opportunities to be vertically integrated with suppliers and OEM; and prepare for the servicing of next-generation airframes and engines.

 

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Thailand Receives Boost To Become Regional Hub For Aircraft MRO

Thailand Receives Boost To Become Regional Hub For Aircraft MRO

French investors in the aeronautical industry have expressed confidence in Thailand’s push to become a regional hub for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). In June 2018, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Thai Airways International (THAI) have launched a new joint venture to establish a MRO facility at U-Tapao International Airport.

Airbus, which first entered the market in Thailand 40 years ago, believes that the MRO sector offer enormous potential for Thailand’s aerospace business in the coming years. The joint venture is part of Thailand government’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) strategy under the country’s 4.0 policy to develop innovative technology-based manufacturing and services in the country. According to Sihasak Phuangketkeow, a former Thai ambassador to France, the MRO centre is a major step forward for Thailand in the new-growth S-curve industries and its grand Thailand 4.0 strategy.

The MRO facility will be the most extensive in the Asia Pacific region, supported by Thailand’s strong automobile and electronics manufacturing base. Airbus and THAI are still working on the final details of the deal to address MRO requirements. When fully operational, the MRO centre will offer heavy maintenance and line services for all widebody aircraft types. The facility will also feature the latest digital technology to analyse aircraft maintenance data, specialised repair shops for composite structures and a maintenance training centre offering courses for technical personnel from Thailand and overseas. With airlines expanding their fleets, including fast growing budget airlines such as AirAsia, many aircrafts would require maintenance and overhaul in the next few years.

Cedric Post, the French Aerospace Industry Association’s deputy director for European and international affairs said that MRO will be a key piece of the aeronautics industry in ASEAN. Furthermore, Airbus and Thailand’s Civil Aviation Training Centre (CATC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in January to work on projects to develop and implement maintenance training and pilot training courses in the country. This would support the development of the country’s aviation industry by helping to ensure a steady supply of pilots, engineers and mechanics for Thailand’s airlines and MRO centres.

Airbus has already begun working with CATC on basic maintenance training courses which could be expanded to additional maintenance and flight training courses for pilots. “The main challenge is to face the growth and train all required technicians and engineers. Airbus is confident that CATC, with Airbus assistance and cooperation, is able to address this challenge,” said Joost van der Heijden, Airbus head of marketing for Asia and North America.

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