GKN Aerospace using laser machine to fix aircraft composites

Using lasers to remove damaged composite material from aircraft preserves the structure's integrity, with up to 60% lower cost.

May 22nd, 2012
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Worcestershire, UK -- GKN Aerospace and partner SCLR Lasertechnik GmbH are using a prototype robotic machine to remove damaged composite material structures on aircraft using laser technology.

The robotic cell, housed at GKN's composites research center in the UK, replaces time-consuming manual grinding processes with a precise, contact- and vibration-free laser removal process that can handle various shapes and sizes of structures, the companies say. Using a laser preserves the structure's integrity but at up to 60% lower cost, they add.

"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," stated John Cornforth, head of technology at GKN Aerospace. "This technology will allow the efficient, cost effective and high quality preparation of almost any composite assembly for repair."

The new process, devised after more than two years' collaboration, uses lasers to remove damaged material and leave remaining fibers and resins intact. No force or vibration are applied, preserving the structure's overall strength and integrity. The affected area is left clean and ready for repair using a replacement patch, which is cured in place using a localized heating mat.

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