Please can you start by introducing yourself, telling us about your background and that of Ascent Aerospace?

My name is Paul Walsh and I’m President of Ascent Aerospace's Tooling Group. We build tools for the world's aircraft OEM's and their aerostructures suppliers. We specialize in all types of large and small tooling for composites, including layup mandrels, bond tools and trim and drill fixtures.

We are the world leader in Invar molds and have added composite tool manufacturing capability to our product lines.

We have designed and built the wing molds for most of the world's large composite aircraft. More information on these is available on our website, and you can take a look at some of our press releases for specific details on the work we have done.

Could you tell us how your technology fits into the aerospace industry and the purpose it fulfils?

As composite structures found a foothold in aerospace, composite tooling was found to offer some advantages over metallic tooling. Obviously, reduced weight facilitates rotation on an automated fiber placement machine and enables easier transport through the factory. Lower thermal mass allows the potential for faster cure temperature ramp up and cool down, which drives shorter cycle times through our customers’ autoclaves or ovens. Rate production tools use a common master mold to produce duplicate tools and prove more cost effective than their metallic counterparts. In response to customer demand, we developed an expertise in manufacturing composite layup molds, trim and drill fixtures, and custom caul sheets at our Coast Composites facility in California. We opened an AS9100C-certified facility with a dedicated 12,000 ft2 (1100 m2) clean room, a 13′ × 50′ (4 m × 15 m) autoclave, on-site cold storage, and CNC ply cutting. And we invested in a highly-trained workforce of certified layup personnel with extensive experience in a wide range of processes and composite materials, among them carbon fiber BMI, benzoxazine, and epoxy for cure tools; fiberglass epoxy for trim and drill tools; and monolithic graphite and foams for masters. We even make our own epoxy tooling board.

This article appeared in the July/Aug issue of Reinforced Plastics.

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