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Introduction of a Multi Kinematic Gripping System for the Vacuum Bagging Process of Complex Shaped Aerospace Composite Structures

Clemens Schmidt-Eisenlohr, Michael Vistein, Lars Brandt


In batch production of large aerospace CFRP structures, vacuum bagging is typically performed manually. The quality of the vacuum bagging is essential to produce high quality composite parts. Since the development of automation technologies is not costefficient if applied only to the vacuum bagging process, major investments are currently avoided. The increased build up of automation solutions in other areas of composite production provides a base for automating the vacuum bagging and thus impacting the part quality positively. The complexity of the vacuum bagging for large integral structures is caused by the multiplicity of cut piece shapes and used auxiliary materials. Additionally, these various cut pieces need to be deposited precisely on doubled-curved surfaces. For these reasons, an automation system needs to be adaptive for a wide range of geometric constraints. To face these challenges, a first automation concept—based on a multi kinematic gripping system—is developed and investigated at the Center for Lightweight Production Technology (ZLP) of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The gripping system is designed with three kinematically independent manipulators attached to a 6-DOF industrial robot, thus providing three geometrically independent gripping elements within a large working space. First experimental investigations are carried out on a full scale demonstrator to achieve basic knowledge on the use of the multi kinematic system and its handling interaction with auxiliary materials. It is shown that a pick and place process is possible for different shapes of cut pieces, different materials (peel ply, release film, membrane) and various tooling curvatures. A high potential for a reasonable application in an automated vacuum bagging process is presented.

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