The IntACom project to develop a robot based system for rapid automated inspection of complex geometry composite components is on track for completion by the end of 2014. The TWI-led project, with the objective of increasing inspection throughput by a factor of four, will deliver a demonstrator system, capable of inspecting complex geometries, and with high throughput.
In civil aerospace manufacturing, the increasing deployment of composite materials demands a high integrity and traceability of non-destructive testing measurements.
Three years of R&D, led by TWI Technology Centre (Wales) has culminated in the completion of its flagship project IntACom. IntACom, funded by aerospace industry and Welsh government, is a highly capable automated inspection system suited to both research and development and production inspection. Two robot arms deploy ultrasonic transducers allowing pulse echo and through-transmission ultrasonic inspection of complex geometry aerospace composite components.
The heart of the automated inspection system is an inspection cell comprising two 6-axis robot arms, capable of working independently and co-operatively. The robotic arms deploy end-effectors carrying ultrasonic transducers (single element and phased array), mounted into water jet nozzles that provide suitable water columns to guide the ultrasonic beams from the probes to the surfaces of the samples. In-house developed software synchronises the robot movement with the ultrasound signal acquisition. The system is also controlled from in-house developed software and allows for easy user control. The robots can be taught by teach pendent or via off-line programming. The operator can load the inspected component geometry CAD file into a software application, and pick the areas to be inspected. The software then generates the scan path for the robots. The robot motion can be simulated in a 3D environment to verify non-collision and robot reach limits prior to actual deployment.
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Click here to view an article published in Aerospace Testing International on automated NDT and composites.