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GKN Fokker Orders Airborne’s Automated Kitting System

GKN Fokker Orders Airborne’s Automated Kitting System

  • Tuesday, 20th November 2018
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  • Reading time: about 3 minutes

GKN Fokker has ordered an automated kitting solution from Airborne. The GKN Aerospace business will be the launch customer for the automated ply sorting system, which will support its ambition to reduce cost and increase output by implementing automation.

Airborne’s kitting equipment reduces costs by saving on man-hours and material scrap, and it enables a flexible and digital workflow. The translation from nesting files to machine controls and sorting optimisation is fully automated by Airborne’s proprietary algorithms and works on-the-fly. At any moment the production manager can change the nesting, and the systems will follow. No programming is needed. The automated kitting solution also ensures full digital tracking of the sorting and eliminates any mistakes.

The system is to be installed at GKN Fokker’s facility in Papendrecht by mid-2019 and it will be implemented in a phased approach. Airborne will first implement the stand-alone sorting system in which the system can automatically detect any random ply given to it by the operator using advanced vision technology. In a second phase, automated ply picking from the nest will be added.

“GKN Fokker is a most valued customer for years and we are proud for the confidence shown in our company to implement their first automated ply sorting system,” says Arno van Mourik, CEO of Airborne. “GKN Fokker will significantly lower their manufacturing costs and improve their time-to-market. Also, our automated kitting solution provides the opportunity to implement the concept of dynamic nesting. This enables GKN Fokker to use a much higher mix in the nesting which can be adapted on-the-fly. Because this will decrease the amount of material waste, costs will be reduced even further.”

Airborne’s kitting solution is designed to pick, place and sort cut composite plies efficiently via a robotised platform. Traditionally, operators manually pick the cut composite plies from the cutting table and manually sort them in the right order to create a sorted stack of plies. The Airborne system, developed in-house, is fully automated and digital, drastically reducing non-added value operational costs.

The kitting concept is one of the building blocks in Airborne’s automation and digitalisation strategy. The others are automated honeycomb potting and an automated laminating cell, both introduced during JEC World 2018.

For extended features, Airborne works closely with partners like Gunnar (cutting table), Plataine (nesting software), KUKA (robot platform) and Siemens (design and control software). These last two partners also collaborate in the Digital Factory for Composites (DFC), which is a field lab spearheading the development of digital manufacturing concepts.

For GKN Fokker and Airborne this implementation is also a first step in a larger programme to implement automation and digital manufacturing concepts, as supported by SAM|XL. SAM|XL is a Collaborative Research Centre based at TU Delft Campus, where partners have joined forces to develop new automation technologies for the manufacturing, assembly and inspection of lightweight structures. SAM|XL’s founding participants are GKN Fokker, Airborne, TU Delft, Airbus, Suzlon, GTM, KVE and TNO. In June 2018, this initiative was awarded €4.2 million by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Province of Zuid-Holland and the Municipality of The Hague. The project is part of the EFRO programme of the European Union.


Image provided by Airborne


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