Robot-assisted laser technology to manufacture large-scale aerospace parts

A 15-month project has been launched that will combine laser processing technology with robotics to enable the manufacture of large-scale, high-end aerospace parts.

The Innovate UK-funded LaserTAU project will see UK entities TWI and CAV-AT collaborate with Swedish firms Prodtex, Cognibiotics and Corebond to develop a prototype robot platform – dubbed TAU robot – capable of offering high speed, high (sub-10µm) accuracy, and high rigidity. The robot will be integrated with laser technology to form a reconfigurable processing cell capable of manufacturing aerospace components and assemblies on a large scale.

While a gantry version of the prototype robot has already been created and successfully applied to factory application tests, the project now aims to expand the working envelope of the platform to around 3 x 1 x 1m.

TWI is leading the project as a technology enabler and system validator. It will focus on the laser processing (welding, cutting, surfacing and drilling) aspects 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. 

Cognibotics, Prodtex and Corebon will work together in a coherent value chain where Corebon will be the provider of light-weight, high-stiffness CFRP hardware, Prodtex will help develop a virtual model of the Tau system, and Cognibotics will provide a PKM-suitable robot motion controller. 

CAV-AT will offer experience in laser processing large area structures relating to wing structures.

‘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,’ says TWI. ‘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.’

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