GKN developing robotics for composite structure repair

GKN Aerospace has developed a prototype robotic machine that utilises leading edge laser technology to automate the repair of composite structures on aircraft.

The technology is said to be a cheaper, more precise and more consistent alternative to the time consuming, manual grinding away of damaged structures. GKN claims it could offer cost savings of up to 60%. John Cornforth, head of technology at GKN Aerospace, said: "With the first installation of this prototype equipment we are now commencing work on extending the ability of this new process to handle various shapes and sizes of structure. "We believe this process has enormous potential; composite materials increasingly dominate the airframe meaning their reliable, effective repair is critical for operators and the industry alike. This technology will allow the efficient, cost effective and high quality preparation of almost any composite assembly for repair." The new process uses lasers to remove damaged material, leaving the remaining fibres and resin intact. The technique applies no force or vibration onto the structure and is said to have no detrimental impact on its overall strength or integrity. The affected area is left clean and ready for repair using a replacement patch which is cured in place using a localised heating mat.