New valuation basis for robots

Selected automation processes for the aviation industry

It was once unimaginable, but is now almost taken for granted: robots and humans side by side in industrial enterprises. Their roles are clearly defined, with people leading and robots providing assistance and relief for the workers while ensuring consistent top quality at high levels of productivity. To establish a basis for future-proof projects, for example in the context of "Industrie 4.0", and to secure the future viability of maintenance operations at the Hamburg site, Lufthansa Technik took on a central role in the cooperative research and development project "Auto-Pro".

The objective of the overall Auto-Pro project, which is platform-based and is running from March 2014 to February 2016, is to evaluate the potential for selected automation processes in the aviation industry and to verify it in two prototype applications. The cooperative Auto-Pro project is intended to generate efficient automation solutions and promote the exchange of expertise among the project partners in the city of Hamburg. The project is divided into three complementary sub-projects that differ in terms of their concepts and their technologies; each is carried out by different project partners.

The purpose of the comprehensive "Auto-Pro+" sub-project is to evaluate the potential of future automation solutions at Lufthansa Technik by determining exactly where the greatest benefits are and what can lead to (further) automation of the processes. The results will then serve as a reliable basis for the evaluation of future automation projects. Partners in the sub-project are the Zentrum für Angewandte Luftfahrtforschung (Center for Applied Aviation Research), which is also the coordinator for the overall Auto-Pro project, Lufthansa Technik, and the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences.

In the "Auto-Pro I" sub-project run by Lufthansa Technik and the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg, the "MORFI" robot demonstrator is to undergo further refinement. To this end, maintenance and overhaul processes for commercial aircraft were analyzed and evaluated with the objective of ascertaining how well they could be automated using a mobile robot. In addition, a customized navigation system was developed for aircraft-independent position determination, and alternative robot concepts were drafted using the results of the process analysis to define the requirements to be satisfied by a future automation solution.

Lufthansa Technik has also made considerable progress in process automation in many other fields in recent years. For example, in the "Laser CWR Wear-Resistant Coating" project of 2013, an automated process was developed for the repair of modern 3D high-pressure compressor blades in engines, resulting in longer service life and significantly higher engine efficiency. The city of Hamburg supports the overall Auto-Pro project and its sub-projects through the LuFo program operated by its Department for Economic Affairs, Transport and Innovation.

The "Auto-Pro+" sub-project is to provide a comprehensive overview of the technology landscape at Lufthansa Technik. The objective is to obtain assessable parameters that can be used as decision-making criteria in implementation projects and supplied to automation processes. Subsequently, implementation projects are to be launched with the goal of increasing process efficiency by double-digit percentages and making a material contribution to achieving Lufthansa Technik's savings targets. Specific benefits of the sub-project include quality improvements and harmonization, standardization of repair processes, shorter response times, increased productivity, reduced inventories and better utilization of scheduled ground time.