A pioneering inflatable barrier at Airbus in Broughton is keeping the operators safe and saving  money. Pictured: Jose-Angel Gonzalez-Domingo (Cranfield University) along with Airbus' Kevin Forster, Conor Warnock, Chris Horton, Jonathan Reid and Chris Allen next to the inflatable part of the barrier in hanger 92 Image: Cranfield University

The inflatable barrier, nicknamed the ‘bouncy castle’, was introduced on the shop floor in August 2018

A Cranfield University Research Fellow has come up with an idea to keep operators safe while speeding up aircraft production.

José-Angel Gonzalez-Domingo was working Manufacturing Research and Technology team at Airbus Broughton. He was asked to improve the installation process for hydraulic systems during A320 wing production.

José is part of the team working with Cranfield’s Professor Phil Webb, the Royal Academy of Engineering and Airbus Chair in Aerostructure Design. The team is dedicated to research on optimising assembly processes, to deliver benefits to Airbus and across the aerospace industry. José said:

“First, I looked at making the hydraulic tests quicker, but realised they were already very well optimised.

“Instead, I came up with an idea that would allow operators to keep working safely on the leading edge of the wing during the testing by using a simple barrier system with an inflatable device for rapid deployment.”

The inflatable barrier, nicknamed the ‘bouncy castle’, was introduced on the shop floor in August 2018. It is now saving over seven hours in the cycle time of the whole wing manufacture. It also mitigates the need for construction of contingency bays, saving a combined total of €2.5 million.

The project has taken two years from idea to implementation and was a collaboration between Airbus R&T (Research and Technology), Cranfield University and ASTG (Airbus Systems Test Group).

“Before the inflatable barrier, no one could work on the wing while the hydraulic tests were being carried out, as there is corrosive fluid inside the wing pipeline.”

“The tests would take around 12 hours, which was a huge amount of production time to lose.”

By putting a barrier under the leading edge to create an isolated area, operators could continue to work safely. The barrier inflates within 30 seconds and adapts to the shape of the wing, providing an airtight seal.

The barrier uses a combination of telescopic screen trolleys and an inflatable wall placed under the wing. This connects to the conventional barriers and protect operators from any hydraulic fluid leaks that occur when the wing is under pressure.