LONDON – Airbus has today inaugurated its structural assembly line for the A320 programme in Hamburg.

This move has no doubt come as of a response to increased demand on the particular programme, especially with the launches of the A321 Long Range and Xtra Long Range variants.

Michael Schoellhorn, Airbus’ Chief Operating Officer mentioned this exact point.

“Given the enormous success of the A320 Family and the order backlog, we are taking the necessary steps to ensure our production system can match the excellence of our products and that we are able to satisfy our customers’ needs for our single-aisle aircraft”.

“A high level of trust and investment has been placed in our people and factories in Hamburg. We now need to deliver in line with our commitments made to customers while ensuring overall competitiveness”, he added.

The new plant features around 20 new robots, a new logistics concept, automated positioning by laser measurement as well as a digital data acquisition system.

Airbus stated that this “will further support Airbus’ drive to improve both quality and efficiency while bringing an enhanced level of digitalisation to its industrial production system.”

Schoellhorn praised the technological advancements that come with this plant.

“By embracing some of the latest technologies and processes, Airbus has begun its journey to set new standards in A320 Family production.”

“This new fuselage structure assembly line is an essential enabler for the A320 Family ramp-up. Increasing the level of automation and robotics enables faster, more efficient manufacturing while keeping our prime focus on quality”, he added.

The initial section assembly features a modular, lightweight automated system, which Airbus named Flextrack.

This element will have eight robots drilling and counter-sinking between 1,100-2,400 holes per longitudinal joint.

The second production stage will feature the other 12 robots, which will operate on seven axes, and will be used to combine the centre and aft fuselage sections with the tail to bring it all together as one ultimate component.

This means that up to 3,000 rivets per orbital joint will be in this one component.

The assembly facility will, therefore, be responsible for joining single fuselages into sections, as well as the final assembly of single sections to aircraft fuselages.

The electrical and mechanical systems will then be delivered to the final assembly lines across France, Germany, China and the US.

It remains clear that as Airbus’ demand for the A320 Program as a whole is growing, solutions such as these new plants are required in order to boost production rates and shorten lead time.

Whether this will contribute to such boosts is unclear, but will certainly be a step in the right direction, especially with aircraft forecasts rising year after year.