Titanium lockbolts from AFS will grip the A380's 119-foot wings

An airplane is made up of millions of parts, parts that must carry enormous loads, stand up under the stress of buffeting winds and be durable. A nut and bolt from the garage doesn’t quite do the trick, something the designers at Alcoa Fastening Systems New Product Development Center in Carson, California, understand well. Alcoa will provide about a million fasteners of varying types for each A380, but one of the most challenging to develop was the lockbolt that will tie together composite panels and aluminum cross members inside the huge A380 wing box. The A380’s wings are each 119 feet from wing tip to fuselage and are designed to carry almost 41,000 gallons of fuel as well as housing landing gear.

“With its size and performance characteristics, the uniqueness of this aircraft had a great effect on design,” says Bill Christopher, Executive Vice President of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Alcoa, whose products touch almost every part of the A380. “In addition to meeting operational performance, however, the aircraft has to be affordable. All the operational efficiencies in the world won’t mean anything if it costs too much. In addition to addressing the operational and acquisition costs of the A380, we also worked with Airbus to ensure that this new aircraft fits within the airlines’ existing maintenance models and infrastructure requirements.”

To meet the challenge of the A380 wing box, for example, Alcoa’s engineers – working closely with the Airbus design team – developed a new part. The Extended Performance Lockbolt with a titanium collar is both strong enough to handle the wing’s great size and compatible with the composite and aluminum materials it has to link.

From a story by Airbus circulated with a special mailing of FORTUNE magazine -- October 2003.
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