So far, the construction of a composite fuselage shell still requires a lot of manual work. The first production cell is to demonstrate that the manual setting of the stringers can be automated. The principle is known: Carbon fiber pre-impregnated with resin, so-called Prepreg, is placed into a mold, one above the other and depending on the required wall thickness several layers. The composite parts are hardened by "baking", so they are heated in an oven under pressure at about 180 ° C and hardened. In order to achieve the required rigidity for an aircraft fuselage, longitudinally additional braces so-called stringers are inserted into the prefabricated shell, which already has the shape of the fuselage. As this process takes place prior to curing, this phase is called "wet material".
The automation of these steps has to overcome some obstacles:
- It is very difficult to transfer knowhow from other processes.
- In the end high-precision aircraft structures are to be assembled from large, not very rigid parts.
- At the same time the automation should convince the aviation industry not only by technically but also economically.
As in the automotive production a platform strategy promises a maximum of flexibility with regards to the automation requirements. Mike Wehn, project manager of FFT EDAG Nordenham, remembers the development of specifications: "Flexible programmable robots shall replace inflexible large fixtures."