The new process, which results from more than two years of collaboration between the two companies, uses lasers to remove sections of damaged material, while leaving intact the remaining healthy fibers and resin. The technique does not apply force or vibration to the structure, so it does not affect the structure's overall strength or integrity. After the laser treatment, the area where damaged material has been removed is left clean and ready for repair. This is done with a replacement patch, which is cured in place using a localized heating mat.
SCLR Lasertechnik specializes in using lasers to selectively remove coatings. The company performs surface preparation of machined parts for painting or gluing, as well as surface activation of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic and glass fiber-reinforced plastic composites, and removing paint in both types of composites. (Watch videos showing SCLR's surface preparation and paint removal of composite parts here.)
In the statement, John Cornforth, head of technology at GKN Aerospace, says:
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.
I think the other differences in car vs airplane accidents are key: cars have (usually) 1-2 people, not tens of people; cars are on the ground, not in the sky, so damage is likely to be greater in a plane crash; cars are driven by private citizens, not company employees; car passengers are more like to travel for "free" vs the ticket price for the privilege of flying in a commercial aircraft with no legroom, absurdly low baggage allowances and crummy food. All of those factors raise our expectations, and I think rightfully so, for the safety of air travel over car travel.
That's pretty normal in the industry. And it; s being done by certified by low cost shops. You definitely won't see robotics anytime soon in say Belize. That's a different thing, that's air traffic and ground control. That is all due to human error or just over crowding unless the brakes went and it rolled out in front. As bad as these sound when was the last major crash? And compare that to driving, then you start to see how safe it is. The problem is no one reports a fender bender even in a bus. Take those same people put them in an airplane bump into a building or ground vehicle and its coast to coast news. It just doesn't happen that much so when anything does it gets way over blown as to its importance. So now we know airplanes , cars, bikes, trains an ad walking are no good guess we are stuck annoying everyone else over the internet :-)
KingDWS, I haven't flown a lot in the last few years but before that I didn't see anything as scary as what you describe. OTOH, I have wondered about the apparent decline in maintenance quality in the last decade or so, which became evident after several high-profile near-misses in the air and on the tarmac.
Unfortunately for your flying piece of mind I am referring to Boeing and practices. You have to keep in mind that the airframes keep getting passed down to smaller and smaller operators with smaller operation and maintenance setups. Eventually they just no longer become viable and get junked if they have no cargo capabilities or face noise or excessive fuel burdens. There are still 727's flying cargo and those had to be one of the worst for noise and fuel burn but they are fast and there are cargo door kits still available. The thing you have to keep in mind is if you see tape holding anything together fake a heart attack and get off :-)
KingDWS, since Boeing et al are the big commercial plane makers, it seems that your comments about repair don't refer to them. So what class of planes are you talking about? They don't sound like aircraft most of us are likely to fly on. Is that correct?
The normal work being done are the major checks which are very labor intensive or repairs such as corrosion that require a lot of labor as well. These type of operation usually require the airplane to be almost stripped bare during the repair. The day checks are normally done at the airlines maintenance facility or regional facility these are fairly minor compared to other inspections or repairs. These shops and repairs still need to be done according to the book so they are licensed and the materials are the proper ones. The ones I would worry about are from peru columbia a few other places those are not exactly reputable repairs (I'd rather walk :-) )
Unfortunately the whole industry is very cost driven so this is going to become more common.
In theory the shops and people or someone has to have the same certifications as up here. You only need one person with the right tickets to sign things off and that's legal. This has been going on more and mores since about the 80"s and perhaps longer that's when I started. Put it to you this way, have you ever flown south on what seemed like a old rattly hunk of junk and then a week later fly north on a nice fresh one. Most of these shops do the very expensive major checks and inspections, the fuel cost is actually not much of a factor to get them down there even when flown empty. Like I said the robots are cool but cheap labor rules.
Interesting, KingDWS. I didn't realize aviation repairs were getting outsourced to low-cost labor markets. Do these low-cost sites have to produce skilled technicians. Are there regulations governing the quality of these repairs?
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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