Robotic Aircraft Composite Panel Scan & Repair

The fuselage and wing structures of modern aircraft largely consist of high-performance fiber- reinforced composites. Damage to the aircraft’s skin made of this material is difficult to detect and even harder to repair. 53 percent of the Airbus A350’s airframe is made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic.

Lufthansa Technik have not only developed a stationary robot for the intricate inspection and lasting repair, but have put a mobile solution successfully into operation. With the help of the new robot, mobile service teams can detect and repair large damaged areas on the wings and the fuselage of an aircraft – on site and even upside down.

The mobile robot can easily recognize free-form 3D surfaces. To make a scarf joint, it is placed on a positioning device attached to the component with suction cups. Specially developed software allows the robot to process 1,000 x 1,000- millimeter surfaces. Even thick composite structures such as wing connection areas pose no problem. For the repair, the robot scans the damage, identifies the surface and calculates both the shape of the scarf joint and the milling path before cutting out the damaged material. Afterwards, the repair layers are cut to size and inserted into the 3D scarfed surface created by the robot. The newly inserted part is then manually bonded to the fuselage and cured. The procedure enhances the bonding strength and also offers reproducible repairs.

“The use of the mobile scarf joining robot not only results in cost and time savings. It also significantly increases quality, since it makes entirely new repair geometries possible.” states Henrik Schmutzler, Innovation Engineer for composite repairs.

For more information: www.lufthansa-technik.com

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