Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - LOCOMACHS (LOw COst Manufacturing and Assembly of Composite and Hybrid Structures)

Project Context and Objectives:

LOCOMACHS (LOw COst Manufacturing and Assembly of Composite and Hybrid Structures), is a collaborative research and development project coordinated by SAAB AB, gathering 31 partners including European key players in the aircraft industry. The project, supported by the EC and with a project budget of 33M €, has for objective to create cost efficient part manufacturing and assembly of composite, metal and hybrid airframe structures.

The benefits of using composites in aircraft design are numerous: important weight and fuel savings, a decrease in the number of individual parts through the design of more integrated and larger singular parts enabled by composite technology, as well as reduced life cycle costs (such as maintenance and inspection costs). However, the assembly of composite parts is more challenging than the relatively easy assembly of traditional machined metal parts.

Within the LOCOMACHS project, the step change will be to develop missing emerging technologies and integrate them with existing ones to create cost efficient part manufacturing and assembly of composite, metal and hybrid airframe structures.

The different RTD activities of the project will address simultaneously different areas of the product development cycle, from product design through to assembly of the structural parts.


More accurate parts and less structural joints

A set of design and manufacturing rules will be defined and validated, taking into account architectural, time and cost constraints to reach more cost effective assembly, to be used in the design phase of product development.

Less shimming

The recurring costs of non-added value shimming operations in structural joints will be reduced by:

• Better knowledge of the manufacturing process (i.e. spring-in process simulation, statistical process control (SPC), tool design), which will lead to production of more accurate parts
• Innovative part assembly architecture and novel design of structural joints
• Use of materials and methods requiring less curing time for more efficient shimming

Optimized integrated geometrical tolerance and variation management

The geometrical tolerance and variation management will be optimized and fully integrated in a representative airframe assembled wingbox structure.

Optimized assembly:

• Use of one-way assembly to avoid temporary assembly operations
• Development of more cost efficient measurement and verification methodology
• The use of flexible assembly tooling to handle geometrical variations in airframe parts

Increased level of automation:

• Development of fully integrated automated assembly processes
• Development of safe solutions for human-robot co-working operations

Innovative NDI/NDT technologies:

• More integration of the NDI/NDT operations on the in situ components
• More flexible, compact and faster processing of inspection
• More automation in the handling of NDI/NDT sensors


LOCOMACHS will assess all developments through advanced physical and virtual demonstrators. Physical demonstrations will be performed on:

• The Lean Assembly Wingbox (LAWiB), an assembled structure with low level of part integration. It consists of a section of a front and rear spar, four ribs, upper and lower cover and connecting parts. It will be a mix of metal and composite parts
• The More Integrated Wingbox (MIWiB), based on the same part design as LAWiB but with a much higher level of integration. It consists of a section of a wingbox with integrated front and rear spar, two ribs, lower cover and an assembled upper cover

Virtual demonstrations, based on extrapolation of the technology feasibility test results to representative complex larger aircraft assembly units, will be performed on:

• The Reference Wingbox (REWiB), a complete wingbox airframe structure where the focus is on demonstrating a virtual lean production flow including both manufacturing and assembly processes in a lead time and physical handling perspective
• The Reference Fuselage (ReFus), to focus on design of individual design features included in typical interfaces in a fuselage structure

Project Results:

During its first year, the LOCOMACHS project has worked on the definition of the design architecture and the build philosophy of the future demonstrators. Partners in all domains, from industry and academia alike, have proposed a total of 84 technical targets, with associated product- and production- requirements (D41.1 and D41.2). To assure that all targets have the required technology readiness level (TRL) for integration, rigorous TRL-methodology will be applied on all targets. Based on their expected final TRL level and feasibility within LOCOMACHS, the most promising targets have been chosen for integration into the demonstrators. A preliminary design based on CAD models for all parts to be integrated into the demonstrators have been used to create a baseline digital mock-up (DMU), validated and distributed to all partners during the preliminary design review (PDR).

The baseline DMU will be continuously updated, using a dedicated CAD network, as partners evolve their respective targets towards the LOCOMACHS high-level objectives. Even now, the progress has been made in the following domains:

More accurate parts and less structural joints

• Targets have been defined for lean manufacturing of more accurate parts and early development has begun on these (initial trials and choice of suppliers).
• Current design of part interfaces is being improved to allow for high-level part integration on LAWiB and MIWiB. Proposals for solutions and evaluations of integrated skin stiffening and integration of metal parts design has been made, using different approaches.
• Novel design features for shim-less interfaces, simplified jig systems for large assemblies and hybrid joint design solutions have been defined.

Less shimming:

• Innovative shimming processes using conceptual solutions for new metrology solutions have been developed and first trials have been performed.
• Technical targets to demonstrate technologies to manufacture integrated structural parts with less assembly have been defined.
• For the improvement of design processes, shell-like finite elements (“shell elements”) will be used for simulation of spring back of large composite laminates (parts) instead of volume elements. The shell elements have been calibrated with material data and are now ready for simulation of spring back of large use case.
• Technical targets for tolerance management have been defined, and include Flexible Tolerancing of composite structure, Statistical Tolerancing and visualization and Statistical modelling of part variations. Composite-specific characteristics for design, manufacture and use has been defined as well as the specification for non-rigid, statistical variation simulation for composites.

Optimized assembly:

• A survey of existing flexible assembly tooling solutions has been performed and solutions have been evaluated. Requirements and conceptual design of new flexible tooling solutions have been defined and a number of conceptual design solutions for tooling systems have been put forward.


• Several technical targets for automated structural assembly sub-operations have been defined, for example drilling, fastening, one-way assembly, sealing, masking fastening and hole inspection.
• Different collaborative strategies for robots and human working together in same working space were defined. The pre-study for the assembly order for LAWiB has been done, and will allow the development of a demonstrator for tacking the 4th rib to the LAWiB using a human-robot collaborative solution.

Novel and Lean NDI / NDT Technologies for Composite Materials and Structures:

• Target technologies have been defined within the areas of Laser Ultrasonics (LUT), Air Coupled Ultrasonics (ACUT), Acoustic emission (AE), Acousto Ultrasonics (AUT) and Phased array Ultrasonics (PAUT).

Potential Impact:

The specific expected impact of the LOCOMACHS project will be:

• 50% reduction of the recurring costs of non-added value shimming operations
• 30% reduction of the recurring costs of non-added value dismantling operations
• 30% reduction of the recurring costs related to part assembly by increasing the level of automation
• 30% reduction of the NDI/NDT lead time

LOCOMACHS directly addresses one of the challenges of the ACARE SRA2 High Level Target Concept (HLTC) “High Cost Efficient Air Transport System” and will be an important enabler to enhancing the supply chain competitiveness and reduce time to market of future products.

The European supply chain deliver airframe structures to aircraft manufacturers worldwide. LOCOMACHS’ approach is to reduce the non-added value operations, which are time and labour intensive, by developing new processes and technologies. This will allow the European supply chain to improve its competitiveness on the world market. LOCOMACHS’ integrated approach will enhance collaborations and technology development at a research level and, for exploitation, at an industrial level.

LOCOMACHS results will be deployed on the next generation of short range aircraft family, and will also be used to upgrade and improve the manufacturing and assembly of new aircraft currently starting production to help airframers to meet their very ambitious production goals.

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