Aerospace Supplier Relies on Digital Laser Projection for Composite Production of GFRP Fuselage Components

At its Mochau, Germany factory, high quality composite fiber components are being produced for the A320 Airbus family. In the future, the composite layup process will be completely supported by digital laser projection. COTESA has thus implemented the laser projection system, including laser projectors and control software, from LAP. The system is already proving itself in pre-series production. In 2018, series production of light-weight components, supported by laser projection, is due to begin.

An annual number of more than 10,000 glass fiber reinforced plastics (GFRP) fuselage parts for the A320 family leave the factory heading for Airbus in Hamburg. In 2016, the contract to increase the vertical range of manufacture at COTESA with painting and assembly of components resulted in around 12,000 square meters of additional production capacity in Mochau. “We produce over 30 different fuselage components in series, which meet the high quality requirements of the aerospace industry. This also includes considerably larger, complex components”, explains Peer Stelling, Manufacturing Engineer at COTESA. “Without modern production technologies, this would hardly be possible. With the laser projection system, the company is putting in place the technical infrastructure to produce even more effectively in the future.”

Laser projection replaces cumbersome, heavy templates

The components are manufactured in the prepreg autoclave procedure, which is very complex and requires a high level of accuracy. The layup for the sandwich components itself is carried out in the clean room and involves careful manual work. However, using laser projection manual measuring, physical templates and layer schemes will soon be a thing of the past. Peer Stelling: “The biggest advantage is that we can completely do without the mentioned tools. This saves a considerable amount of time. In addition to the time advantage, the employees no longer have to pick up the ply books or handle the cumbersome, heavy templates. They can fully concentrate on their work and simply need to place the cut outs on the mold along the projected laser lines. For work-station rotation or shift changeover – the employees work in 3-shift operation – the next operator can continue to work seamlessly. The laser projection system also facilitates to flexibly react to changes of plans.”

Fail-safe, fast and digital

The operators are happy to have the support: The laser projectors precisely display every shape, layer by layer. Text projections give additional visual help, for example to indicate intermediate steps or the orientation of the elements to be placed. “The employees are familiar with the system and operate it in a very intuitive way. They hardly even need to look at the monitor. New projection steps can be started comfortably by means of remote control”, continues the graduate engineer. The LAP PRO-SOFT software manages all work steps. It also documents the projection steps and saves order-related data by generating log files.

Ready for takeoff

COTESA decided in favor of the diode-based LAP CAD-PRO laser projectors with green laser sources. These lasers have a service life of more than 30,000 hours, can be focused and provide good visibility. All these benefits may contribute to process reliability. The laser projection system also gives the flexibility needed to handle different component sizes of between three and six square meters. In total, seven work stations are laser projection ready. To process larger tools, some stations are equipped with up to four projectors. “The infrastructure is in place and the processes are established. With the laser projection system, we are very well prepared for series production”, says Peer Stelling.


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