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LaserTAU: Laser processing for aerospace structures

Fri, 09 August, 2019

A new Innovate UK-funded collaborative project has launched to investigate combining a high speed, accurate and stiff robot (TAU) with a laser processing capability for the manufacture of high-end aerospace structures.

Laser processing has the potential to enable higher productivity manufacturing of both metallic and composite aerospace structures. This would be achieved through fabrication using laser additive manufacturing of large metallic structures, material preparation via laser processing of surfaces for improved aerodynamics and/or ice formation, and accurate cutting and drilling of panels for the purposes of assembly.

The 15-month LaserTAU project, which is a collaboration between TWI and CAV-AT from the UK and Prodtex, Cognibotics and Corebond from Sweden, aims to establish the ability of a processing cell to fabricate and manufacture large-scale aerospace components and assemblies.  This will be achieved through the development of a new robot platform – the TAU Robot.

A gantry version of this new prototype robot has already been created and successfully applied to factory application tests and now this project aims to adapt the prototype to create a system that is able to laser process work pieces with a working envelope of around 3m x 1m x1m.

LaserTAU will then be able to exploit the extreme accuracy (<10µm), high stiffness, large open workspace and reconfigurable on-site capabilities afforded by the robot to manufacture aerospace structures.

TWI will focus on the laser processing (welding, cutting, surfacing and drilling) aspect of the project based on the TAU PKM machines and concepts developed primarily in Sweden by Lund University and promoted by Prodtex, Cognibotics and Corebon.

LaserTau is a unique opportunity to combine leading UK and Swedish technologies, building on common interests and triggering further investment to extend the proposal and provide market-ready products.

While this product is currently being investigated for use in the aerospace industry, it is capable of processing structures/components for any sort of industry, so TWI is investigating expanding the system to serve other industry sectors.

You can find out more TWI’s laser processing work here.

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