Hampson Industries is enjoying a string of new contracts and ongoing programs that will help the U.S. company continue growing as a supplier of tooling used to manufacture structural aircraft components and as manufacturer of the components themselves. Since last September, Hampson has been working under the leadership of new CEO Norman Jordan, who has significant experience in international aerospace markets, having previously been chairman and CEO of France’s Labinal in Toulouse from 2006.
Honda has awarded Hampson (Hall 2b F155) a life of program contract for its new HondaJet to supply the business aircraft’s aluminum empennage. So far, the company has shipped the first five empennages for the production-conforming HondaJets being used in the flight test and certification program. And later this year, it will begin making empennages for production HondaJets, well in time for certification, which is scheduled for the third quarter of next year. Hampson also provided tooling to GKN Aerospace, which is manufacturing HondaJet composite fuselages in Tallassee, Alabama.
Piper Aircraft awarded Hampson a contract for design, fabrication, installation, testing and certification of assembly and bond tooling that will be used to manufacture the PiperJet Altaire’s fuselage, empennage and wing. The PiperJet is made of metal, but uses bonding techniques for some airframe components.
A significant award from Bombardier has Hampson’s Coast Composites subsidiary building outer mold-line tooling for the new CSeries regional jet’s wing. Bombardier’s Belfast facility is building the CSeries composite wings, and the outer mold-line tooling is critical to ensure dimensional stability and precision on such long components. In addition to the CSeries work, the company also is participating on Boeing’s 787 and the Airbus A350.
About 70 percent of Hampson’s business is commercial aviation and 30 percent military. Military programs include a major contribution of tooling for companies that make structural components for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as well as for its Texstars subsidiary, which makes composite and thermoplastic parts, including transparencies for many military aircraft and some commercial programs.
With composites becoming more prevalent in major aircraft structure, Hampson is researching new materials for tooling that retain its critical dimensions during autoclave cycles. Metal remains the current best material. “We’re already making tooling at the high end of life expectancy,” said Jordan. “We’re always looking at [new materials], and I think that’s the low end of where we could reap fruit from technology development today.”
Research is also under way to use more composite materials to make tooling. “We work with composite material producers to codevelop tooling and concepts that would work well together [and make it] better, faster and cheaper to build those kind of products,” said Jordan. Hampson already makes composite tooling for its contract with Boeing and now is developing a tooling concept for large-area composite repairs. “There’s an opportunity there, and we are working on some proprietary technologies and capabilities,” he said.
A unique Hampson product line is shims, used to close gaps between elements during assembly processes. The company makes both metallic and composite shims in different shapes, sizes and thicknesses. Its peelable shims allow manufacturers to dial in required thicknesses on the assembly line instead of custom-ordering a specific thickness, which can speed up the assembly process.
“There are a number of opportunities,” Jordan said, including some that have been awarded to Hampson but that the company isn’t yet able to announce. “The market looks pretty good on the composites side as well as on the tooling and fixtures side. We have at least one contract to work on development of a tooling concept for other new airplanes. We have a number of programs that believe we are well positioned for rate tooling as those programs ramp up and require duplicate tooling.“