GKN Aerospace and SCLR Lasertechnik signed an agreement at JEC to develop new automated laser technology for improved, lower cost and swifter repair of composite structures.
Phil Grainger, Senior Technical Director and Chief Technologist at GKN Aerospace commented: “”As composite materials increasingly dominate the airframe, their effective and swift repair becomes ever more critical. We believe this laser technology offers an important route to solving significant cost issues surrounding efficient high quality repair. This new agreement with SLCR aims to deliver first generation equipment in just two years.””
The two companies are working on an automated laser process that will replace the time consuming manual grinding of the composite surface currently required to prepare for bonding new materials to form the repair.
Olav G. Schulz, Managing Director of SLCR adds: “” The screening results achieved in our test program were very positive and as a result we are happy to work in partnership with GKN Aerospace to bring this development to an industrial standard.””
The new laser process removes the material as required in the affected area, leaving the remaining material fibres & resin intact. As this is a contact free process, the technique applies no force or vibration onto the structure and so has no detrimental impact on its strength or integrity. The area can then be repaired using a replacement patch which is cured in place using a localized heating mat. The repair has the strength of the manual repair but is far more reproducible – and achieved in 1/3rd the time, with a potential 60% cost reduction.
Phil Grainger continues: “”As a Company we are constantly assessing the potential of new technologies and processes. This laser technology has huge promise for aircraft operators and the industry, enabling efficient, cost effective and high quality repair of almost any composite assembly, with the potential for work to be undertaken in the workshop or on the aircraft.””
The development program for this technology will be funded in partnership with UK government as part of the ELF (Environmental Lightweight Fan) Research Programme. This programme will play a major role in the comprehensive test and evaluation of the first generation repair equipment.
GKN Aerospace is involved in a wide variety of aerostructure and aero-engine research programmes – in private venture (PV) activities, in partnerships such as this, and with groups of companies supported by a range of UK government and EU funded research programmes.
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