MRO and completions specialist Lufthansa Technik (Booth H71) is looking at a scope of projects to increase automation to ease the burden on its workers, including the recent development of a robot to help with avionics components checks.
This new test procedure, which Lufthansa Technik calls Robot Controlled Cockpit Electronics Testing, or Roccet, was the culmination of two years of in-house development, the company said. In the implementation phase, Roccet will be able to check all LED light and switch functionality similar to a human, as well as perform defined functional tests.
In fact, Lufthansa Technik said, the system takes the “subjective feel” of the mechanic out of the testing equation, helping to improve the quality of the results. It takes an objective view of when bright has become too bright or a switch is worn, the company adds.
The robot is embedded with sensors that can measure forces that occur when switches are activated. In addition, the robot is equipped with industrial cameras to provide a picture of display instruments and search for outer damage. Another camera can measure the brightness of displays from different angles.
"This fully automated procedure allows us to ease the burden on our colleagues in the workshops and reduce the testing effort by one to two hours per component,” said Florian Sell, senior engineer for automated test equipment systems at the Aircraft Component Services division and manager of the Roccet project. “At the same time, the new procedure provides concrete measurement data in accordance with uniform standards. For example, we now have physical threshold values for the brightness of LEDs. And with the help of data mining, we can determine exactly when an LED has to be replaced."
Initial plans call to use the robot for work on the Airbus A320 and A350, along with Boeing 787 flight-deck maintenance, but this may eventually extend to controls on other aircraft types at various of its locations, the company said.
“It is independent from any spatial constraints. Hence, the technology could also be adapted to any modern cockpit panel, such as those of smaller VIP jets,” a Lufthansa Technik spokesperson said, but added the intent is to focus on airliners at its component shops. Currently, it is used in its workshops in Hamburg, Germany.
During the integration phase, the robot will replace manual testing “step by step” to define possible weaknesses early on and improve the automated process. Decisions on future deployment and other aircraft types have not yet been made.
But it is part of a number of possibilities Lufthansa Technik is looking at in different disciplines, from automated robots such as Roccet to collaborative robots (C-Bots) that work alongside humans. “Our robotics research activities span almost our entire spectrum of product divisions, from airframe via components to engine MRO,” the spokesman said. “One of the driving factors in this endeavor is not to replace our human workers with robots, but to relieve them from many ‘dull’ and repetitive tasks and allow them to focus on the core elements of their jobs, for example, fault rectification.”