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New research to revolutionise next-gen aircraft repair

Teams from the University of Southern Queensland, MEMKO and Boeing are working together on this ‘digital twin’ technology. (From L-R: Arjun Palepu (MEMKO), Peter Schubel (UniSQ), Tristan Shelley (UniSQ), Venkata Chevali (UniSQ), Phil Crothers (Boeing), Xuesen Zeng (UniSQ), Ravi Jain (MEMKO), Cam Minh Tri Tien (UniSQ) and Horace Leung (Boeing).)

As Tony Stark worked on his latest brilliant technological breakthroughs in Marvel’s Iron Man movies, he often ran simulations via virtual models made with dancing blue light.

This concept of a ‘digital twin’ – a computer version of a physical object or system – is not restricted to science fiction. It plays a key role in sectors such as manufacturing due to its ability to test and forecast safer, faster, and cheaper than doing it in ‘real life’.

University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) researchers are now exploring a new use of the technology focused on composite materials thanks to a new Innovative Launch, Automation, Novel Materials, Communications and Hypersonics (iLAuNCH) Trailblazer project.

It will see UniSQ Centre for Future Materials researchers access a suite of digital twin technologies thanks to Melbourne-based aerospace company MEMKO and work alongside global aerospace company Boeing to apply the technology.

Lead researcher Dr Tristan Shelley said the ultimate goal was to achieve increased digitalisation of manufacturing processes for composite materials.

“The digital workflows we develop will be used for a Boeing case study focused on the repair of composite components to eliminate both engineering and laborious processes, leading to more efficient and effective maintenance, repair, and operations of future aircraft and spacecraft fleets,” Dr Shelley said.

He said the program would also work on the identification of filament winding pathway developments, particularly for complex components that cannot easily be supported by existing software.

“The linkage of vision tools in-situ during filament winding into the digital twin is key to optimised manufacturing processes.”

iLAuNCH Trailblazer Executive Director Darin Lovett said the project aimed to digitally transform the repair process for aircraft and spacecraft built from composite structures.

“MEMKO brings to UniSQ access to the Dassault Systèmes virtual twin software which enables the virtual replication of a product along its whole lifecycle – from digital design through to manufacturing requirements or, in this case, structural repair.”

Dassault Systèmes is a French multinational software corporation that develops software for 3D product design, simulation, manufacturing, and other related products.

iLAuNCH is a collaboration of regionally based institutions – led by the University of Southern Queensland with The Australian National University and the University of South Australia – to build Australia’s sovereign space capability through addressing critical gaps and accelerating development of a manufacturing sector.

Find out more about iLAuNCH at the University of Southern Queensland.