Lufthansa Technik is to deploy a robot as mobile MRO equipment for composite repairs next year.
The maintenance provider is presenting the demonstrator robot for the first time at the ILA Berlin air show, after jointly developing it with Airbus’s defence and helicopter divisions, German aerospace research centre DLR and Hamburg’s technical university as part of a three-year project dubbed Composite Adaptable Inspection and Repair, or CAIRE.
The partially state-funded project will run until March 2015. The objective was to develop an automated repair system that could be deployed as a mobile unit away from MRO facilities. While components such as flight-control surfaces can easily be detached from the aircraft for repairs in workshops, the robot is to be used for airframe damage. It automatically cuts out areas of damage and delivers the data to produce purpose-made repair patches.
Equipped with suction pads, the robot can be attached anywhere on the fuselage and wings, including in upside-down positions, says project manager Jan Popp.
While it is still at the demonstrator stage, the robot is fully operational in principle, says Popp. LHT wants to trial its employment on secondary structure components at its Hamburg base by year-end, and start testing it as a mobile unit from 2015, he adds.
The MRO provider is now looking to find partners to take the equipment to production stage, says Popp.
CAIRE is a follow-up to the previous “Rapid Repair” project aimed at developing a stationary robot for composite repairs. This was used to cut out a damaged section of an Airbus A320 main landing gear door. The section was subsequently replaced by a purpose-made repair patch and has since been in service for two years.
Employment of the robot cuts repair times by at least 60% versus a manual procedure, says Popp.