Emil Bucher GmbH & Co. KG

© 2020 Emil Bucher GmbH & Co. KG

Research Project AZUR


We have successfully completed a research project as part of the joint research project AZUR for the development of an end effector for the automatic application of lightning strike protection material to carbon fiber aircraft fuselage shells.

Our project partners were the DLR (German Aerospace Center) and Premium Aerotec.

The end effector was presented during the opening ceremony of the new DLR research center in Augsburg.

Automated Lightning Protection Applicator (AZUR, RoCk)

The Task

The scope of work of the RoCK project (Robust CFRP - Entire Process Chain) includes the development of an automated deposit of lightning protection prepregs.

The requirements include:

●      Precise application on the fuselage shell carried out by an industrial robot

●      Crease-free draping on double-curved surface

●      Status monitoring and controlling


The concept

In order to fulfill the requirements, the following features have been developed:

●      A compact end effector on a KUKA KR210 robot

●      Three drives for material transport (force controlled)

●      Two ultrasonic cutters on linear slide for the sheet cut

●      The drives are controlled as additional axis of the robot in order to ensure the synchronicity with the robot movement

●      More than ten sensors for status monitoring

The end effector moves to the application / deposit position on the fuselage shell and starts with the application / deposit. During this process, the three layers of the material (consisting of the lightning protection prepreg, the protective foil and the release paper) are separated, the prepreg cut to a position-dependent sheet and then draped over the protective foil on the surface.


It is planned to use the extended motion (XM) system by KUKA as control system and to connect the sensor system via an EtherCAT bussystem to the robot cell.

Construction Design

The construction design of the lightning protection applicator has been carried out by the project partner

Emil Bucher GmbH & Co.KG.

The individual process steps were examined separately during the development project and then the results were summarized.

After those test results had been validated, an analog application cart was built, which enabled the survey and examination of the interaction of the process steps in their entirety.

The design challenges were:

●      Robust, industry-oriented and compact construction

●      High accessibility

●      Low weight




Robot Connection

The connection of the end effector to the robot control is effected in several steps:

●      Installation of the sensor system and the EtherCAT fieldbus

●      Testing and configuration of the sensor system on the end effector via TwinCAT

●      Connection of the end effector to the XM Control outside the robot cell. In this process, the robot axes are simulated and only the end effector drives are activated.

●      Control transfer (software and hardware) to the robot cell. The extended motion controller assumes the control of the end effector drives, which is synchronous to the robot motion.


Subsequent validation is effected on original shell of section 16/18 of the A350XWB. As there is no turning station available at the experimental rig, the end effector has to be moved around the mounted fuselage shell. It is aimed to apply accurately fitting, parallel sheets. The following points are essential for the validation:

●      The design of the fuselage shell was examined with regard to optimum accessibility.

●      The motion of the end effector drives and the robot have to be synchronized in real time.

●      With the aid of the Robot Sensor Interface (RSI) the sensor data is transmitted to the drive and used for sheet control.