Airbus has finished fabricating the second all-composite test barrel for the A350XWB program, the company announced today. Measuring some 59 feet (18 meters) in length and about 20 feet (more than six meters) in diameter, the test barrel consists of three sections built to validate the complete process chain, from the manufacture of individual panels, frames and clips, to shell assembly and section assembly and the production of circumferential joints. Its shape therefore closely mimics the planned final design of what will become the actual A350 fuselage.
Airbus plans to use Barrel 1B to support the validation of design principles and sizing methods. The tests performed on the barrel will center mainly on the fatigue properties and damage tolerance of composite structures.
Innovations include automated shell assembly, section assembly and tolerance management, particularly for circumferential joints, as well as the production of large carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) panels–the largest with a chord length of 18 feet (5.5 meters). Airbus heralds such extensive use of CFRP as a significant advance: it used the material to make the panels, frames, window frames, clips and door. The design will also incorporate the first hybrid CFRP and titanium door frame structure, according to Airbus.