Airbus put together what it describes as a transnational, transfunctional team to develop an efficient new method to repair fiber optic cables.
Lighter than traditional metallic wiring, with much higher bandwidths, fiber optic cables are integrated throughout an aircraft in systems that include taxi-aid cameras, head-up displays, in-flight entertainment, cockpit systems, etc. However, when non-conformities are discovered in a cable during installation, making the necessary repairs has proven to be an expensive and time-consuming process.
“Before, if damage was found, the entire cable and surrounding harnesses needed to be removed so that the repair could be performed in a shop outside of the aircraft,” said Project Co-leader Laetitia Mennebeuf, a fiber optics specialist from Airbus’ Systems Engineering department. "This took 10 hours to do and in removing the harness, other cables and wiring could get damaged.”
One of the more common non-conformities concerns the contacts at the two ends of a cable, she said. "If the contacts were deficient, they had to be cleaned and polished or remanufactured at the shop floor laboratory.”
“Working with our supplier, AVOptic, we developed new, portable tools that re-polish the contacts,” said fellow Project Co-leader Nadège Brunaud-Martinerie, an engineer from Airbus’ Manufacturing Engineering department. The process was introduced at Airbus facilities through special “awareness sessions.”
“Because they’re portable—and battery-powered—the new tools can be brought onboard the aircraft and repairs made without disturbing the other installers,” she said. “We use the same processes and get the same results and quality as before, but by not having to remove entire cables and harnesses, repair time is cut from 10 hours to two hours.”
The project—which lasted 18 months from concept to handover—was recognized by Airbus with a 2015 Award for Excellence.