With FIXAR, Inholland Composites sets sights on aviation and wind energy
In search of innovative composite repairs for SMEs
With a view to developing new, economically sound methods that can be used by Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to repair damaged composites in the aviation and wind energy sector, Inholland Composites launched the FIXAR project in October. This two-year project is a collaboration between Inholland Composites, including its Composite research focus area, and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Saxion University of Applied Sciences, CompositesNL and SMEs from the Dutch aviation and wind energy sector.
SMEs are faced with the challenge of gaining knowledge and experience with automation solutions and implementing new inspection technologies, as this the only way that they will be able to meet the growing demand for composite repairs. With this is mind, the goal of FIXAR (Future Improvements for Composites Sustainable Automated Repair) is to carry out applied research that is aimed at developing automated composite repairs that are technically and economically feasible. Inholland Composites, including its Composite research focus area, is working together with a number of knowledge institutions and SME partners to achieve this goal.
Aviation and wind energy sectors are joining forces
The project consists of four sub-studies: tools for automated repairs, inspection and validation, materials testing and SME employee training. The focus is on aviation and wind energy. These two sectors are particularly familiar with lightweight designs and fibre-reinforced polymers, and are thus well suited for exchanging knowledge to create pioneering opportunities for innovation. Technologies such as augmented reality play an important role in the project, as does the use of drones and other robot technologies.
'In aviation, companies are currently replacing their existing fleets with new aircraft like the B787 and A350, which are made up of more than fifty percent composites', Antoine Gerritse, Aeronautical Engineering training manager, explains. 'The question is what can be done when these aircraft are hit by lightning or birds and need to be repaired. The current methods of maintenance, repair and overhaul are often not fast enough or are outdated. It is therefore high time to look for new ways of repairing damaged composites.'
Applied research on the shop floor
Some of the research will take place on the shop floor, so that participating companies can benefit directly from the study results. Internships and graduation projects will also be available to students from the participating universities of applied sciences. The project results and findings will also be used to develop new ‘sustainable’ educational material for degree programmes in Aviation Technology, Mechanical Engineering and Computer Engineering. On top of this, the FIXAR project will have a lasting impact on professional practice, as it will enable SME entrepreneurs to increase their knowledge of repair processes.
The research question was developed thanks to a successful grant application to the SIA-RAAK SME programme. The collaboration includes the aviation and wind energy companies SPECTO Aerospace, Fusion Engineering, KVE Composites, Colosso Engineering, Pontis Engineering, Schatmaker and Carbon Racing. An advisory council was also assembled, with representatives from the Royal Netherlands Air Force, KLM, Fokker GKN, the Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre, the Delft University of Technology, Fieldlab Zephyros, the Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen, and LM Windpower.