WSU engineering lab advances research with Kawasaki robot
A new Kawasaki refill integral fastening system at Wichita State University’s Advanced Joining and Processing Lab (AJPL) is enhancing research to reduce weight and increase performance capabilities in aerostructures.
Only two of these systems exist in the world, one in Japan and the other at Wichita State’s AJPL. Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) and AJPL are collaborating to implement the joining technology in aerostructural manufacturing.
Integral fastening is a solid state forging process in which two or more metals are joined together without an external heat source. With the technology, the lab is aiming to reduce the use of mechanical fasteners, such as rivets, in aircraft wing panels, skin panels and fuselage joints.
“Integral fastening will be an innovative way to join aerostructure components,” said Michael McCoy, engineering professor and director of AJPL. “This process forges materials together to form an ‘in situ join’ stronger than that of traditional mechanical fasteners of the same size.”
McCoy said the KHI refill system produces a fastener with no head, hole, indention or upset in the aircraft skin, which strengthens metal connections. Also, the elimination of rivets means lower manufacturing costs and airframe weight, leading to lower operational costs.
Valuable student experience
The lab installed the Kawasaki integral fastening system at the beginning of the spring 2013 semester and has been running tests on the robot since Jan. 22.
Other AJPL capabilities include continuous friction stir welding and various robotic applications.
Adam Wiley, a Wichita State senior majoring in mechanical engineering, has worked in the lab for more than a year. He values the experience because he has learned how different robots operate and works on projects from start to finish.
“Students get to work in all parts of the lab and perform a variety of tasks,” said Wiley. “It’s not a place where you do the same monotonous task day in and day out; students have to be intuitive to overcome complications in each project.”
WSU’s Advanced Joining and Processing Lab is located in the National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) in northeast Wichita.