Zodiac taps alternative prepreg site to limit impact of factory blast


Two weeks after Zodiac Aerospace’s Newport, Washington facility suffered an explosion that injured five employees and caused significant damage, the company is on track to restart production of raw materials and adhesives, though production of prepreg materials – where the blast originated – will be supplied by an alternative supplier for the time-being.

Production equipment at the Zodiac Aerospace Advanced Composite and Engineered Materials plant has been set up in a secured area of the facility to restart production of raw materials and adhesives next week, with a press for manufacturing composite panels scheduled to restart the week after, Zodiac says in a statement.

“Other functions, which were more seriously damaged in the explosion, will need more time to be resumed on site, in particular the prepreg1 production. Therefore, in the meantime, prepreg materials will be supplied by an alternate site, producing our products and part numbers under the guidance of the Newport team. We have also increased our supply of equivalent prepreg materials that can be used in multiple programs as well. These deliveries start from next week,” it adds.

A Zodiac spokesman says the firm is not divulging the alternative supplier now assisting the firm.

Prepreg work involves taking a fabric matrix (like a carbon-fibre weave), impregnating it with a resinous material, then forming it in a vacuum with heat and pressure. As previously reported by RGN, the resulting components are likely to add structural stability to larger parts of the cabin interior, particularly monuments like entrance doors, interior walls, bulkheads and larger seat shell parts.

In the aftermath of the 14 July blast, industry stakeholders questioned the impact on the aerospace supply chain, which is already under strain due to increased aircraft production. Though Zodiac has grappled with supply issues unique to the firm – including a prior strike at its Gainesville, Texas plant formerly known as Weber, and union-related issues that resulted in reduced productivity at Zodiac Premium Galleys – broader clog points in buyer furnished premium seats and galleys have been known for some time. And suppliers have been working around the clock to meet demand. A constraint in engineering resources across the aircraft interiors industry is also exacerbating the issue.

Zodiac says today that the restart of some operations, the use of a contract site to support manufacturing, and increased supply from its other vendors “will help limit the impact on the production of the Zodiac Aerospace sites depending on the supplies of the Newport facility”.

Meanwhile, the last hospitalized Zodiac employee from the Newport plant has been released from hospital. And an investigation to determine the cause of the explosion is ongoing.