Equipment Movers Help Aircraft Manufacturers To Move Invar Aerospace Tooling
Several leading manufacturers of high-quality aerospace parts are using MasterMover® electric tugs for the accurate and reliable movement of the heavy Invar mould tools used to create carbon composites components.
Invar is highly valued in the aerospace industry because it does not expand or contract under extreme temperatures, ensuring that the mould remains stable during heating and cooling. This makes it ideal for the manufacture of aerospace composites such as wings and fuselages which must meet strict production standards. The tooling required during manufacture can weigh several tonnes and can be up to 15-20 metres in length.
In a typical application, ‘pre-preg’ (the unheated mix of resin and carbon fibre cloth that will form the final part) is placed onto the Invar tool under cleanroom conditions, after which the tool is transferred to the autoclave for curing, where the resin catalyses and hardens.
This process creates several obstacles for manufacturers. Without specialist materials handling equipment, factory operatives can be forced to manually steer the tooling while a forklift ‘pokes’ it into position. Not only is this time-consuming and potentially dangerous to employees, but it risks damaging the expensive composites tooling.
“Invar tools are manufactured to bespoke, often very intricate specifications, and has very fine tolerances to ensure that parts comply with strict aviation safety standards,” explains Hugh Freer, Sales Director at MasterMover®. “Any twisting or deflecting of the tooling would require extensive repair or replacement, at a huge cost.
“Similarly, introducing a forklift into a cleanroom environment can affect the quality of the pre-preg, which can affect the quality of the finished part,” he adds.
To avoid these issues, MasterMover®’s recommendation is to transport the tooling using two MasterTugs, one positioned at either end. This permits complete control and manoeuvrability, allowing operators to push or pull the tooling forwards, backwards and sideways, or even to spin in on its axis to avoid obstacles such as doors.
Furthermore, the compact size and pedestrian operation means that tugs can be used in the cleanroom where forklifts cannot, for a seamless and effective journey from the lay-up area into the autoclave.
MasterMover has supplied MasterTugs to a number of OEMs and Tier 1 aerospace suppliers, in order to ensure safe and effective handling of carbon composite tooling.