Robotic Inspection of Large-Scale Composite Aerospace Structures

Spirit AeroSystems has announced its engineers have combined a wide range of robotics hardware and software technologies to meet the complex needs of inspecting the company’s composite aerospace components such as fuselages, wings and substructures.

“Typically, inspections for meeting customer requirements have been done by large, fixed systems that are difficult to adapt to new applications,” said Dan Caughran, Spirit vice president, Global Quality. “Our new approach is built around two industrial robots that can interchange among seven different sensors and multiple inspection methods. In short, had this technology not been available, we would have had to rely on solutions of far less flexibility and roughly twice the cost.”

“Either cooperatively or independently, the robots automatically inspect complex composite parts up to 200 feet long, dramatically reducing the time required for inspection – sometimes up to 40 percent faster,” said Mike Grosser, Spirit’s lead non destructive inspection (NDI) engineer. “Analysis of the results is achieved through advanced phased array digital signal processing, which can be automated through machine learning.”

Spirit is implementing the new robotic NDI technology at its headquarters location in Wichita, Kansas, USA and plans to use similar technology at its Prestwick, Scotland, facility. Spirit engineers are also investigating and applying robotics technology for other manufacturing applications where flexible automation is required, such as machining, sealing and material handling.

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