Automated Repair Method for Composite Aircraft Structures

february 7 2012

Lufthansa Technik AG has for the first time developed a method for the partially automated repair of fiber composite materials on aircraft structural components. Using the new method it will be possible in future to repair the outer skins of aircraft, which these days are increasingly built from composite materials, more quickly and more efficiently. The repair method will primarily be used on aircraft fuselage and wing structures, but it can also be applied to helicopter rotor blades. A patent application has already been submitted for the method developed under the research project, which is supported by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs (BMWi) and which will continue through April 2012.

The actual repair process kicks in after a damage assessment has been carried out and the affected component has been cleaned. First of all the surface and contour are precisely scanned and captured to the nearest hundredth of a millimeter using an optical measurement technique (strip light projection). The bonding surfaces are then created by a computer-controlled milling machine. This process makes use of software specially developed for this project. Perfectly matching pre-cuts of individual composite layers are then produced, superimposed on the damage component, bonded and cured.

Dr. Franz-Josef Kirschfink, Director Technology Projects at Lufthansa Technik, underscores the benefits of the new method: "Thanks to close cooperation with our partners from industry and research, iSAM AG, Cassidian, GOM - Gesellschaft fur optische Messtechnik, Electro Optical Systems (EOS) and Eurocopter, we have succeeded in automating virtually the entire repair process chain. The new method from Lufthansa Technik will make it possible to cut the repair time by up to 60 percent compared with the manual repair."

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