Level of automation (LOA) in aerospace composite manufacturing: present status and future directions towards industry 4.0

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Composites have become the go-to material of the aerospace industry during the past decades and a significant uptake in composite materials for aerospace applications was evident in recent years. Both expert academics and industry practitioners believe, to meet the future demand, the level of automation in the aerospace composite manufacturing process chains must be improved. The main focus of automation in composites so far has been given to automate siloed operations but limited attention has been paid to end-to-end integration of the process chains leading to inefficiencies, rising operational costs, and low productivity. This paper intends to compare and contrast the level of automation (LOA) in different aerospace composite manufacturing process chains to identify where the LOA triumphs and lacks. For this purpose, core-process and sub-process tasks involved in commonly used manufacturing process chains (i.e. Filament Winding, Automated Tape Layup, Automated Fiber Placement, Resin Transfer Molding, and Pultrusion) are identified by conducting a detailed literature review and verified by the experts. Then, the process chains are mapped and visualized to understand the workflow. Later, these tasks are evaluated based on an established LOA taxonomy developed for manufacturing processes. The study reveals that even the popular ‘automated’ processes are developed in silos and do not show consistent higher LOA throughout their process chain. While core-process tasks show intermediate LOA (Level 5–6), most non-value-added activities show poor LOA (Level 1–4). Most importantly, none of the tasks involved in the existing composite manufacturing process chains have reached a higher LOA (Level 7). The paper reveals that focusing on sub-process tasks, and tasks that lack automation should be the next step towards achieving fully automated composite manufacturing and presents a two-pronged approach to realize Industry 4.0.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-61
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Manufacturing Systems
Volume62
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Keywords

  • Aerospace
  • Composite manufacturing
  • End-to-end integration
  • Industry 4.0
  • Level of automation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

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