GKN opens wing components manufacturing facility

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GKN Aerospace has formally opened a manufacturing facility designed to help it win a significant portion of the global wing structures market in the next 30 to 40 years.

Located outside Bristol, the Western Approach facility will be used to manufacture and assemble carbon-fibre-reinforced wing components. The £170m facility currently employs 300 staff but this is expected to rise to 450 by 2016.

Made up of two buildings with a total floor space of 30,000m2, the facility is already engaged in the manufacture of components for the Airbus A350 XWB and A400M.

The first building — operating at between 10°C and 21°C ambient with 40–50 per cent humidity — contains the composites manufacturing operation where automated fibre placement (AFP) machinery supplied by M Torres is currently applying 7–10kg of material an hour to the A350’s rear wing spars.

The steerable, automated tape-laying process can simultaneously apply 16 tows to the spar and improves on-hand lay-up rates of around 1kg per hour.

The second building houses a ‘moving line’ assembly operation that uses RHC Lifting’s automated guided vehicles to move the wing structures to different manufacturing processes in the facility.

Speaking at the launch, Nigel Stein, GKN chief executive, said that aerospace is playing its part in the UK’s growth agenda but stressed that the sector’s future competitiveness depends on the UK’s ability to design, develop and manufacture goods and services that can be sold globally.

He said: ‘In the next 20 years, nearly 60,000 civil aircraft with a value of more than £3 trillion are forecast to be built. If the UK can maintain its strategic position in the supply chain, then the prize is enormous.’

Stein added that competition for work would be intense and that industry cannot work in isolation.

‘We need a strong government-industry partnership that creates the right environment for UK manufacturers to invest and develop their capabilities.’