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Non-destructive inspection innovation is proposed for next-generation composite aircraft

01 July 2015

AutoDISC has proposed a new method for the non-destructive inspection (NDI) of future generation composite aircraft using CAD controlled robotics.

The research group consisting of Plant Integrity, BIC (Brunel Innovation Centre), KCC, InnoTecUK, Jackweld and NetComposites, proposes two key NDI innovations:

The first proposes up to 100 percent volume NDI coverage using gantry deployed, CAD controlled robotics, so that inspection records at any point can be accurately compared at successive maintenance downtime intervals to allow health diagnostics and prognostics.

The second NDI is a step increase in current detection probability for composite defects implemented through an inference engine performing similarity analysis on spatial and temporal changes in images with coherent noise removal performed by advanced signal processing.

Current inspection techniques are limited at present due to the relatively early adoption of composite materials in aircraft structures. Aircraft are currently inspected part by part; AutoDISC aims to allow the scanning of an entire aeroplane.

Automation makes the current inspection process quicker, more efficient and more accurate so that defects that could be missed by manual inspection are detected and aircraft downtime is minimised.

It is expected that a system will be developed for the automated ultrasonic inspection of aerospace composites with enhanced defect detection probabilities aided by gantry deployed, CAD controlled robotics.

AutoDISC explains that this is vital in the future of aerospace due to the modes of failure associated with composites in aerospace applications not being fully known, as they are still near the beginning of their design life. Current NDI of composites in production and service is still largely manual with low area coverage and NDI images are difficult to interpret for any technique because of macroscopic structural anisotropy.

The project kicked off on the 1st August 2014 and so far the materials for the test specimens for inspection have been determined along with the test specimen dimensions and form. The software systems and robotics are being developed and the NDT end effector has been specified.

AutoDISC will now manufacture industrially relevant test specimens for proving the capability of the robotics, software and NDI equipment.

AutoDISC has received considerable interest in the proposed technology. In particular, industry would welcome new methods that increase efficiency savings (through reduced downtime and costs), and that help to improve the record-keeping systems associated with inspections.

The research leading to these results has received funding from the UK's innovation agency, Innovate UK.


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