Back in 2009 PPA were engaged to look at a solution to the long running issue that Airbus had with protecting the horizontal areas of the structures inside the wing when they are being manufactured. The areas are susceptible to damage from dropped items and get very dirty from coolant and foot traffic.
PPA took templates from the spars that run the length of the wings and made a vacuum form tool from the data, we then vacuum formed rigid ABS cover that sat in the spar. PPA presented the finished protective cover, trimmed to suit the area to be protected, that included a rubber edging strip that sat flat in the structure to allow access around the edge for drilling and bolting. A trial was run and the reported improvements were 90% reduction in damage and dirt. PPA then went on to manufacture 10 full sets of covers for the Long Range variant and subsequently developed the same solution for A380 and then Single Aisle.
In 2013 PPA were again approached about a product improvement, it had been decided by Airbus that a flexible cover would be much more user friendly so PPA went about researching vacuum formable materials and found a material that would remain flexible after the vacuum forming process. We carried out the same research and development program as the rigid covers, made tooling for a sample section of the wing structure, had it trialled by Airbus and then once it had been approved went on to produce covers for Long Range, Single Aisle A380 and even the new A350.
Since the spar covers have been manufactured in the new flexible material several other projects have been carried out for Airbus which have involved PPA visiting site and taking templates of areas that have been identified as vulnerable to damage, we have carried out the same process of prototype manufacture for testing by Airbus, if the test is successful we then manufacture sets of covers for use in the manufacturing process of the wing build.