GKN Fokker to implement automated kitting solution from Airborne

The automated kitting solution is said to reduce costs by saving man-hours and material scrap, and it enabling a flexible and digital workflow.

GKN Fokker (Redditch, UK), a business of multi-technology tier 1 aerospace supplier GKN Aerospace, on Nov. 15 announced it has awarded the contract for the delivery of an Automated Kitting solution to Airborne (The Hague, The Netherlands), technology leader in advanced composites. GKN Fokker will be the launching customer for the automated ply sorting solution.

According to Airborne, its Automated Kitting solution reduces costs by saving on man-hours and material scrap, and it enables a flexible and digital workflow. The translation from nesting files to machine controls and sorting optimization is said to be fully automated by Airborne’s proprietary algorithms and works on-the-fly. At any moment the production manager can change the nesting, and the systems will follow. The Automated Kitting solution also enables digital tracking of the sorting. 

The system is to be installed at GKN Fokker’s facility in Papendrecht, The Netherlands by mid-2019 and it will be implemented in a phased approach. Airborne will first implement the stand-alone sorting system in which the system can automatically detect any random ply given to the system by the operator using advanced vision technology. In a second phase, automated ply picking from the nest will be added. 

 

Building blocks for a fully automated and digital composite production line

Airborne’s Automated Kitting solution is designed to pick, place and sort cut composite plies efficiently via a robotized platform. Traditionally, operators manually pick the cut composite plies from the cutting table and manually sort them in the right order to create a sorted stack of plies. The Automated Kitting solution automates the process. 

The Automated Kitting solution is one of the building blocks in the automation and digitalization strategy of Airborne. Two other building blocks are its Automated Honeycomb Potting and the Automated Laminating Cell, both introduced during JEC World 2018.
For extended features, Airborne closely works together with partners like Gunnar (Arlington, WA, US) for cutting table), Plataine (Waltham, MA, US) for nesting software, KUKA (Shelby Township, MI, US) for robot platform and Siemens (Plano, TX, US) for design and control software. These last two partners also collaborate in the Digital Factory for Composites (DFC, Ypenburg, The Netherlands), which is a field lab spearheading the development of digital manufacturing concepts. 

 

First step towards more smart manufacturing concepts

For GKN Fokker and Airborne this implementation is a first step in a larger program to implement automation and digital manufacturing concepts, as supported by SAM|XL, a Collaborative Research Centre based at TU Delft Campus (Delft, The Netherlands), where partners have joined forces to develop new automation technologies for the manufacturing, assembly and inspection of lightweight structures. In June 2018, this initiative was awarded 4.2 million euros by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Province of Zuid-Holland and the Municipality of The Hague. The project is part of the EFRO program of the European Union.