Research project: "Thermas"

Research area: Mobile Robotics
Supported by: Federal Ministry of Economics and
  Technology (LuFoIV-3)
In collaboration with: Lufthansa Technik, IFF, 
Start of the project: November 2011
End of project: August 2014 


The "Thermas" research project was concerned with the development of a mobile robot unit for use in the maintenance and repair of aircraft. As part of the project, a thermographic crack inspection was carried out for aircraft with an aluminum fuselage. The robot automatically positions the sensor at the inspection areas, and measurements are carried out. A universally applicable kinematic system with 6 degrees of freedom was developed, which can also accommodate and guide a wide range of tools. Thanks to the modular design, the robot can also be used for other tasks and in other industries with similar requirements, such as in the production and inspection of wind turbines or shipbuilding.

The mobile robot can move in any direction on the aircraft fuselage. The development of a suitable adhesion principle to ensure movement even in a vertical and overhanging position on the aircraft's outer skin was also part of the research project, as was the development of a suitable navigation concept. The kinematic structure of the robot is a hybrid kinematic system consisting of the serial coupling of two parallel kinematic systems, each with three complementary degrees of freedom. This requires predictive motion planning to avoid position- and attitude-dependent singularities within the workspace. Thanks to the hybrid design, a relatively large workspace with high rigidity was achieved, thus optimally fulfilling the requirements for the robot.

Another special feature of the robot developed at the IFPT is the extensive use of industrial components. The robot controller was realized on the basis of an NC controller for conventional machine tools. In order to use such a controller as a robot controller, access to the NC kernel was necessary to be able to implement the axis transformations, for example. The NC controller made it possible to program the robot using G-code and to use the user cycles and special functions of machine tools.

Further information and a video can be found at LHT project page.


Contact person at the institute: Dr.-Ing. Christian Schlosser