Aerospace Fan Blade Vacuum Gripper

August 25, 2020

Andron Handling were approached by an Aerospace Company to design and manufacture a Modular Vacuum Gripper for High Value Aerospace Components.

Background

Advances in fuel and noise efficiency in civil aircraft engines in recent years have driven a significant increase in bypass ratios. This has pushed the size of front fan to the extent that aircraft manufacturers now struggle for ground clearance. As the individual blades which make up those fans grew well beyond an ergonomic size for manual handling many years ago, Andron Handling have vast experience developing solutions for these high value, high quality components.

The Technical Challenge

The latest iteration of one of our versatile and popular vacuum lifting products brought some interesting challenges. Newer composite blades, especially in the earlier stages of manufacture, can have textured surfaces which are not as straightforward to grip with vacuum cups as their traditional titanium counterparts. Andron carried out experimental testing and some feasibility studies on the new materials and determined that the benefits of our easy-to-use vacuum gripper could be carried forward if enhancements were made to the security of the vacuum generating systems.

The Andron Solution

High efficiency electronic vacuum generating and monitoring components were utilised in a new configuration along with a simple, large capacity supply protection system. This allowed us to exceed the requirements of the relevant safety standards and ensure retention of the blade in all operating and potential failure modes.

With the major technical problem of vacuum security solved, the team implemented a number of additional beneficial features into the new aerospace fan blade vacuum gripper to enhance the value and usability for the customer. A modular architecture was adopted, allowing easy re-configuration of the vacuum tooling to suit a range of applications and future requirements. A quick-release system with automatic vacuum coupling was incorporated for this aerospace fan blade vacuum gripper, allowing the customer to make flexible use of the Andron supplied light crane systems in a range of applications. Our Binar zero gravity lift systems were specified to provide precise, low effort lift and allowing a range of interlocks to be included for enhanced safety.

The opportunity was taken to introduce 2 axes of rotation, again to allow application flexibility for deployment throughout the customer facility. These rotations were fitted with adjustable end stops and rotation control to enable safe and controlled movement for both quality and operator safety.

It was decided that as the aerospace fan blade vacuum gripper may be used in wet and harsh environments, all-stainless steel fabrication was appropriate; a common feature for our clean-room and wet-room equipment.

Several of the aerospace fan blade vacuum gripper were ordered in the final delivery, supplied with a variety of lightweight overhead crane systems and other lift devices to suit the individual working envelopes.