GKN Fokker Launching Customer for Airborne’s Automated Kitting solution

GKN Fokker, a business of the world’s leading multi-technology tier 1 aerospace supplier GKN Aerospace, has awarded the contract for the delivery of an Automated Kitting solution to Airborne, technology leader in advanced composites. GKN Fokker will be the launching customer for this high-tech innovative automated ply sorting solution. It will support GKN Fokker’s ambition to reduce cost and increase output by implementing automation.

Airborne’s Automated Kitting solution reduces costs by saving on man-hours and material scrap, and it enables a flexible and digital workflow. The translation from nesting files to machine controls and sorting optimisation is fully automated by Airborne’s proprietary algorithms and works on-the-fly. At any moment the production manager can change the nesting, and the systems will follow. No programming is needed. The Automated Kitting solution also ensures full digital tracking of the sorting and eliminates any mistakes.

Lowering manufacturing costs and improve time-to-market

The system is to be installed at GKN Fokker’s facility in Hoogeveen by mid-2019 and it will be implemented in a phased approach. Airborne will first implement the stand-alone sorting system in which the system can automatically detect any random ply given to the system by the operator using advanced vision technology. In a second phase, automated ply picking from the nest will be added.

“GKN Fokker is a most valued customer for years and we are proud for the confidence shown in our company to implement their first automated ply sorting system,” said Arno van Mourik, CEO of Airborne. “GKN Fokker’s will significantly lower their manufacturing costs and improve their time-to-market. Also, our Automated Kitting solution provides the opportunity to implement the concept of dynamic nesting. This enables GKN Fokker to use a much higher mix in the nesting which can be adapted on-the-fly. Because this will decrease the amount of material waste, costs will be reduced even further.”

Building blocks for a fully automated and digital composite production line

Airborne’s Automated Kitting solution is designed to pick, place and sort cut composite plies efficiently via a robotised platform. Traditionally, operators manually pick the cut composite plies from the cutting table and manually sorts them in the right order to create a sorted stack of plies. The Automated Kitting solution does this fully automated and digital, drastically reducing the non-added value operational costs. Airborne developed the Automated Kitting solution in-house.

The Automated Kitting solution is one of the building blocks in the automation and digitalisation strategy of Airborne. Two other building blocks are Automated Honeycomb Potting and the Automated Laminating Cell, both introduced during JEC World 2018.

For extended features, Airborne closely works together with partners like Gunnar (cutting table), Plataine (nesting software) , KUKA (robot platform) and Siemens (design and control software). These last two partners also collaborate in the Digital Factory for Composites (DFC), which is a field lab spearheading the development of digital manufacturing concepts.

The Automated Kitting solution by Airborne also was shown in full at the Composites Europe 2018 for the first time – a world premiere.

First step towards more smart manufacturing concepts

For GKN Fokker and Airborne this implementation is also a first step in a larger programme to implement automation and digital manufacturing concepts, as supported by SAM|XL. SAM|XL is a Collaborative Research Centre based at TU Delft Campus, where partners have joined forces to develop new automation technologies for the manufacturing, assembly and inspection of lightweight structures. SAM|XL’s founding participants are GKN Fokker, Airborne, TU Delft, Airbus, Suzlon, GTM, KVE and TNO. In June 2018, this initiative was awarded 4.2 million euros by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Province of Zuid-Holland and the Municipality of The Hague. The project is part of the EFRO program of the European Union.

More information – let us know!

Would you like to get more detailed information? Please contact our Business Development Manager Mr. Pieter Broos.
Airborne released a movie to illustrate the automated kitting process flow and the main benefits for customers: pitch movie (1 min) or the extended movie (2 min), where Airborne’s CTO Marcus Kremers takes you along the whole process.