What could be a major advance in repairing composite structures bodes well for commercial aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350XWB, which contain composites in large proportions of their structures. The new method combines robots and lasers to make repair more consistent and less expensive.
GKN Aerospace, which is the first UK company to use one of the British National Composites Centre's new automated fiber placement machines, is also pioneering the use of robotics in composites repair. GKN Aerospace is one of Boeing's composite aerostructure suppliers.
A major advance in repairing composite components bodes well for commercial aircraft that contain composites in large proportions of their structures, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, shown in South Carolina as the first one built there is rolled out. (Source: Boeing)
In conjunction with its program partner SCLR Lasertechnik GmbH, GKN Aerospace is deploying laser technology to automate repair. The company said in a statement that repaired structures have the same strength as can be achieved with current manual repair techniques, but repairs are more consistent and cost as much as 60 percent less.
Manual repair techniques typically involve time-consuming grinding away of damaged structures. The new robotic cell, housed at GKN Aerospace's composites research center in the UK, is the first prototype robotic machine that uses laser technology to remove damaged composite structures on aircraft.
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?
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