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Have a safe flight

Inspection technology for highest flight safety

A non-destructive testing system from Gurten makes aircraft even safer.

Statistically speaking, aircraft are the safest means of transport in the world, but when accidents happen, they tend to be serious. Consequently, safety is the top priority in aircraft construction. Structural parts for aircraft must be extremely resilient, yet as lightweight as possible. Because every gram of weight that does not need to be transported to an altitude of 15,000 meters saves expensive kerosene and reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why aircraft parts are increasingly made of the lighter carbon-fiber composite materials and not of metal as before.

Every single component of an aircraft – and there are plenty of them – is relevant to the safety of the whole design. Faults in the material and during processing can make flying impossible – with fatal consequences for the people on board. Composite parts are therefore subject to strictest quality requirements, with compliance checked on a regular basis.

GKN Aerospace based in Munich (Germany) has specialized in manufacturing composite parts for the aircraft industry. As safety-relevant components used predominantly in commercial aircraft, they are subjected to extensive non-destructive testing. In order to replace the existing slow, inflexible system from 1986, GKN commissioned the machine builders at Fill with developing a multimodal inspection system with maximum flexibility and dynamics.

“In order to detect irregularities in the material or processing, 100 percent of our parts are subjected, among other tests, to an ultrasound inspection.”
//Dr.-Ing. Jakov Šekelja, Head of Quality Management at GKN Aerospace Deutschland GmbH

The customer's requirements for the design are extremely strict. In order to meet these, Fill's ACCUBOT team developed a non-destructive testing system with two articulated robots on parallel linear axes, which can be used jointly as well as separately. The high-precision robots can inspect composite parts in three separate zones. In addition, an automatic tool changer makes it possible to perform the tests with different methods – without first having to clamp the component to be tested.

Use of the widest variety of inspection technologies in a single NDT system saves a lot of valuable time, because a component can, for example, first be subjected to ultrasound inspection and then pulse-echo testing. X-rays, tomography, thermography and contactless geometric measuring methods can also be integrated into the system. The high efficiency gain of the ACCUBOT system therefore results from the extremely quick inspection processes and the possibility to combine them automatically.

Inspecting a 10 m² lower cover for a landing flap using pulse-echo technology used to take 100 minutes, but we have succeeded in reducing this to just seven minutes with the new ACCUBOT system.

//Dipl.-Ing. Wolfgang Haase, Composite Aerospace Sales, Fill Gesellschaft m.b.H.

When developing the multimodal NDT system for GKN, the strictest standards from the automotive industry were applied. ACCUBOT consequently scores highly with convincingly high precision of the robot system and maximum availability. In this way, a solution adapted to the customer’s individual requirements was created in close collaboration with the customer, a solution that can serve as the new reference benchmark in non-destructive testing.

Knowing that all composite parts of an aircraft have been subjected to 100% inspection – ideally on an NDT system made by Fill – makes flying a relaxing experience. Because if you look for precision, you will also find safety.

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