Suwala, A., Agyepong, L., and Silcox, A., "High Accuracy Automated Drilling Processes for Achieving Laminar Flow," SAE Technical Paper 2016-01-2095, 2016, doi:10.4271/2016-01-2095.
Reduction of overall drag to improve aircraft performance has always been one of the goals for aircraft manufacturers. One of the key contributors to decreasing drag is achieving laminar flow on a large proportion of the wing. Laminar flow requires parts to be manufactured and assembled within tighter tolerance bands than current build processes.Drilling of aircraft wings to the tolerances demanded by laminar flow requires machines with the stiffness and accuracy of a CNC machine while having the flexibility and envelope of an articulated arm.This paper describes the development and evaluation of high accuracy automated processes to enable the assembly of a one-off innovative laminar flow wing concept. This project is a continuation of a previously published SAE paper related to the development of advanced thermally stable and lightweight assembly fixture required to maintain laminar flow tolerances.The machine selected for this project is a Gudel-Exechon Parallel Kinematic Machine. The developed processes were successfully demonstrated during the assembly of the innovative laminar flow wing achieving the required tolerances. The project was funded by Aerospace Technology Institute and conducted by the Manufacturing Technology Centre in collaboration with Northern Ireland Technology Centre at Queen’s University Belfast.