An automated solution for the aerospace industry

Hayley Everett

Evaluating a complete automated solution for composite handling, assembly and inspection.

Composites have long been leveraged for aerospace applications to help with lightweighting, reinforcement and new part designs. Naturally, the demand for wholly automated solutions for composite handling, assembly and inspection has become a key focus for the industry, as it promises to lower the cost and speed up the process of aircraft manufacturing.

One company operating at the forefront of this area is Loop Technology, whose innovative composite automation and layup technologies, inspection and kitting systems are leveraged by multiple global aerospace manufacturers across the globe. Using a combination of precision gantry, robotics, vision and automation, Loop’s products are supporting several large-scale projects demanding tight tolerances and fast assembly times.

Ian Redman, Project Director at Loop Technology, discussed recent advances in high-rate composite deposition at Advanced Engineering last November. He explains: “We all know the benefits of composites, the challenge is actually getting these composite parts at the volume we require. So, yes we can make composite parts, but without advanced automation we are never going to achieve the quality, repeatability and rate that is required. Loop Technology has developed a range of technologies to level that challenge, and we have been working for a decade in this area on various R&D projects with industrial partners. We’re now at a really exciting point where the maturity of these technological solutions is ready to deliver on the demands of today’s projects.”


Loop’s composite products are modular, allowing the company to deliver a system tuned to the individual needs of a particular project or manufacturer. The company can design bespoke systems for preforming structures both large and small, such as wing skins, fan blades or small box structures. The system gantry or robotic configurations can be itemised depending on factory size and layup preference, from full gantry systems and dual robot fiberoll layouts to small deposition cell and track gantry configurations.


The risks involved in composite handling are significant, as damage or deformation of plies in any handling process cannot be tolerated in flight and safety critical aerospace engineering applications. To protect against this, Loop offers bespoke composite gripper designs that simultaneously improve manufacturing cell throughput and maintain industry quality standards. On the inspection side of things, Loop has developed systems to meet stringent quality standards capable of in-process monitoring and positional correction during composite layup.


When optimal ply utilisation is a priority, Loop can design, manufacture and install fully integrated composite kitting systems. These systems offer a comprehensive automated composite ply handling and management solution starting from automated carbon fibre ply feeding to a cutting table, through to the fully kitted stage where composite plies can be presented in prescribed order for immediate assembly.


Another part of Loop’s automated composites handling solution is trimming – it can deliver high-precision ultrasonic cutting of composite materials, from tacks of dry fibre to 3D preforms. By combining the power of CAD and CAM software with the flexibility of six-axis robots, Loop can offer bespoke part trimming while also integrating various auxiliary processes that may be required, such as torque monitoring and particulate extraction.


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