Field & Onsite Repair of Composite Structures

The exponential growth in the use of composite materials in aviation is leading to problems with regard to the repair of these materials. Where composite techniques are being perfected, little is known about the quality and durability of repairs of composite materials. Only (scarce) specialised technicians can perform these repairs. But materials cannot always be moved to where the defective aircraft is located.

Assessment of surface cleanliness is required, in relation to the treatment method (physical, mechanical, chemical), but also in relation to temperature, humidity, light, etc. This must be done before parts (initial or after repair) are glued. Very little is known about the influence of surface cleanliness on the durability of the gluing. Only then can proper inspection and repair techniques be developed.

Innovation Track 5: Developing automated repair techniques for repair of composite structures

This project focuses on the automation of composite repairs, long-term quality assurance, shortening the repair time and making repairs possible on site. Automation of the whole repair chain will be investigated from automated inspection to automated milling and application of the repair patch. Algorithms will be developed to combine NDI inspection data and geometry of the damaged area in order to create a milling file for automated preparation. Part of the project will be the investigation of adhesives, preparation methods and determination of milling parameters for composite materials. Furthermore, the research looks into the use of robots to be able to scan the surface of composite and to determine the damage extent and location. This will result in faster repair on location, cost reduction and higher deployability of aircraft.

Project status

Runtime: 1st of November 2014 – December 2019

Parties involved

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More information

For any questions about the project (status) or if interested to collaborate, please contact: 
Henk Jan ten Hoeve (NLR) or Roger Groves (TU Delft)