Bell uses design-for-manufacturing approach to reduce V-280 costs

20 June 2018
Bell's V-280 made its first demonstration flight on 18 June 2018 in Amarillo, Texas. Source: IHS Markit/Pat Host

Key Points

  • Bell used a design-for-manufacturing approach to its V-280 straight wing and rotor blade design
  • The company said this helped reduce costs by roughly 50% in both areas

Bell used a design-for-manufacturing approach with its V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft to drive down costs, according to a programme official.

Paul Wilson, V-280 chief engineer, told Jane’s on 20 June that the company was able to reduce costs by as much as 50% in a few areas: straight wing, rotor blade, and rotor hub assembly. He said Bell used the straight wing design to cut costs in half just through the first aircraft build.

Wilson said engineers looked at making rotor hub assembly and rotor blades more producible before they started designing the aircraft. He said Bell used a broad goods layout approach to essentially lay down blankets of composite material quickly, compared with laying down individual fabric or very small and narrow pieces of fabric, which is used in historical composites for manufacturing.

“Areas of focus have been with the … all composite wing, all composite rotor blades, the hub aspect of rotor blades as well as looking at the drive system elements,” Wilson said in an interview on the flight line of Bell’s V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft production facility here.

Bell on 18 June gave reporters a view of the V-280’s first demonstration flight, which took place six months after first flight. The aircraft is nearly 40 flight hours into the test programme.

The demo flight was conducted in “aug rate”, or with pilots hand-flying the aircraft. The V-280 performed a normal takeoff from a hover and lowered the pylon angle, enabling the aircraft to operate more like a turboprop. Bell said the speeds demonstrated on 18 June were only a portion of the V-280’s maximum capability.

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