Laser coating removal robot wins award

Southwest Research Institute and XYREC have recently developed at robot-guided laser for the stripping of paints and other coatings from full-body aircrafts. This laser coating removal (LCR) robot was recognized by R&D World magazine as one of the 100 most significant innovations of 2020.

The laser coating removal robot (LCR) uses intelligent process monitoring to precisely and safely remove paint and other coatings from full-body aircraft. Image: Southwest Research Institute

The LCR is the only robotic aircraft coating removal process that can cover the full range of aircraft sizes, coatings, colors and substrates on a broad range of defense and commercial aircraft, from fighter jets and helicopters to cargo-sized aircraft.
“The technology is unique, fast and more environmentally friendly than traditional processes,” said Paul Evans, a director in SwRI’s Intelligent Systems Division. “LCR uses the largest specialized commercially available CO2laser on the largest mobile manipulator to accurately control the coating removal process.” The LCR robot uses intelligent process monitoring to precisely and safely remove the topcoat only or individual coatings. Controlled by a proprietary computer vision system with a patented polygon scanner, the robot uses a CO2 laser to evaporate and combust paint. Effluent is immediately vacuumed from the surface and passed through a filtration system.
A built-in, closed-loop, color recognition and control system allows it to strip both metal and composite surfaces accurately, making selective stripping possible. Software guides the robot, allowing LCR to closely follow the three-dimensional contour of an aircraft. The fully autonomous system can be managed by a single operator. It can also work independently or in tandem with another LCR. The LCR system can shorten processing time by as much as 80%, drastically reducing cost-per aircraft, minimizing reliance on support facilities and reducing aircraft down time. It is compatible with all types of aircraft and helicopters and can also be used to remove coatings from a wide range of off-airframe parts.

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