The AdelWiggins Group is a leader in providing engineered solutions for a wide range of aerospace and equipment refueling applications. Barbara Kram reports on this world-class supplier of highly engineered products.
AdelWiggins Group, based in Los Angeles, was formed in 1993 from the consolidation of divisions of long-established suppliers to the aerospace industry. Adel Fasteners was originally founded in 1938 and its name has become synonymous with specialized, vibration absorbing clamps. In fact, such components are commonly referred to in the industry as “Adel clamps.” Wiggins Connectors, founded in 1925, enjoyed similar recognition with its industry-leading fluid connectors.
“The two products started the modern aerospace connectors and clamp industry,” says Robert Schmidt, director of sales and marketing for the company. Today, AdelWiggins Group products are found on virtually all aircraft produced in the Western world. In addition to Adel clamps, the company makes tube connectors, special connectors, heaters and hoses. That may sound like any industrial parts list but AdelWiggins Group’s innovative design of these components has greatly influenced the airline industry’s
ability to adapt to changing times and pressures, for example by reducing the weight of components for better fuel economy,
and by improving flexibility to allow for more economical design approaches.
On the corporate side, AdelWiggins Group is now part of TransDigm, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, a leading manufacturer of highly engineered component products for commercial and military aerospace. TransDigm also sells its products to commercial OEM and aftermarket customers in a number of specialized industrial markets, such as mining and marine equipment. In addition to AdelWiggins Group, TransDigm operates four other business units: AeroControlex Group, Marathon Power Technologies, Adams Rite, and Champion Aerospace.
AdelWiggins Group’s extensive line of high-quality, custom products, features aerospace-related fluid line components. These are the flexible connectors, quick disconnects, clamps, heaters and hoses, and refueling systems. The company’s technical expertise, responsiveness, and ability to move quickly through the prototype and certification process have established it as a leader in its markets.
“We do maintain a very large engineering staff to respond to industry needs and our product development and customer support is organized into dedicated engineering and product teams,” Schmidt says. “If a customer has a need we are usually able to jump on it and respond fairly quickly. And we will support our customers and dedicate resources strictly to
Many of AdelWiggins Group products are proprietary and offer superior engineering characteristics and functionality. Custom products are specifically designed to meet the technica requirements of customers, focusing on factors that are critical to OEMs and airlines. For example, products are designed to ensure efficient, reliable assembly, which reduces installation and maintenance costs for the OEMs and airlines. In addition, the company’s products have a reputation for long service life and extremely high reliability in stressful operating environments.
The Sum of its Parts
Trends in the airline industry, including downsizing after Sept. 11, 2001, have put greater emphasis on the need for ease of installation of components. Airlines want to reduce installation costs including personnel requirements and delivery times. “If they can shave a day or two out of total aircraft production it’s huge,” Schmidt says. “Then throw in the continuing rise of fuel costs and projections that it will continue to rise over the years. Anything that shaves weight off the aircraft is also critical.” He notes that additional weight from commercial airline amenities, like DVD players and associated wiring, only adds to the need to trim weight elsewhere in the aircraft.
The AdelWiggins Group is responding with advanced materials to maximize the strength-to-weight ratios of its components. Other design priorities for OEMs and airlines include low profile geometry and a broad range of high-temperature service, other stresses that the company’s components are designed to meet.
Boeing recently selected AdelWiggins Group’s straight ribbon heaters to replace all heater tape currently installed in all 747s and 767s. The change will affect heater tape on water and drain lines in cargo compartments. It’s a perfect example of the company’s dominant position in its core product lines including connectors and elastomers.
Another example is the new Boeing 787, which runs hydraulic lines through the fuel tanks for simplification of systems. In traditional design, the hydraulic lines on the wings for actuators and flaps run around the fuel tanks. But that complicated design required larger pumps to prevent pressure drops in the line. So to simplify design, decrease weight, system complexity and pump size, Boeing will put the hydraulic lines through the fuel tanks. AdelWiggins Group’s components will make that possible. The project is in the qualification phase with the first production parts now being made.
AdelWiggins Group is also a major supplier of flexible tube connectors. Airline passengers may not realize it but aircraft wings are designed to move quite a bit in all directions. Since fuel lines snake through the wings of many aircraft, they too must be flexible.
AdelWiggins Group developed lightweight and flexible connectors that have changed the way planes are designed and made. “If you had a stiff fuel line it could snap. So everything is in sections with joining connectors that allow for up, down, lateral movement,” Schmidt explains. “We have also developed products that doubled the flexure. The A380 has an extremely large wing. In laying in that many tubes, it’s very easy to have some offset and misalignment so we increased flexure to double the off-set capability for ease
A good example of AdelWiggins Group’s design contribution to the industry is the way it engineers composite, standard fuel tubes that are far lighter than aluminum. One application is in isolation tubes that protect fuel tanks from lightning strikes. The tube acts as a resistor to dissipate electrical energy and keep the fuel tank
On the connector side, the company engineers high-performance quick disconnects. “Probably our greatest strength is in extreme temperature conditions,” Schmidt says. “We’re very strong with space vehicle and cryogenic tanks. We do service helicopters as an off-shoot from the Vietnam War era, and we are doing quick systems and tank-drop systems.”
On the elastomer side, the company makes cushioned clamps for vibration abatement and wear resistance for electrical and hard tubing fuel lines. It also has heater products for freeze protection on water and waste lines, designed to protect aircraft equipment.
Production of the company’s components takes place in its 120,000-square-foot facility in Los Angeles. Capital equipment ranges from simple punch presses to four-axis lathes. Because it does so much turning and lathe work from bar stock, AdelWiggins Group is one of the largest consumers of titanium bar on the West Coast. It prevents shortages in supply of this valuable metal by anticipating production needs and maintaining sufficient inventory.
The company of about 400 employees had been growing recently, all through organic efforts and the popularity of its highly specialized offerings.Its full product line encompasses tube connectors such as clamshell couplings. These include the flexible wing components; threaded connectors and composite tube assemblies; special connectors including quick disconnects; heaters including flexible heaters and hoses; and the iconic Adel clamps such as block and loop clamps, saddle clamps, multi-line clamps, wear sleeve and metal stampings; and other materials. The company’s service system unit adds expertise in diesel fuel systems and related quick disconnect couplings.
“Our mission is to be a world-class supplier of highly engineered products for the aerospace industry. Competition varies for each product line, but we are either number one or two in all our products,” Schmidt says.