Rolls-Royce Demos SWARM Robot for Engine Maintenance
July 20, 2018
Artist’s impression of SWARM robot
The IntelligentEngine vision, first introduced by Rolls-Royce at the Singapore Airshow earlier this year, describes a world where product and service have become so closely connected that they are inseparable. This vision drives activity across a range of fields, including robotics, with a particular focus on digital technologies.
The robotic technologies displayed today each represent an opportunity
to improve the way engine maintenance is delivered, for example by
speeding up inspection processes or by removing the need to take an
engine off an aircraft in order to perform maintenance work. This has
the potential to offer significant benefits for customers by reducing
the cost of engine maintenance, increasing the availability of an engine
and ensuring any maintenance required is completed as quickly as
INSPECT robots – a network of ‘periscopes’ permanently embedded within the engine, enabling it to inspect itself using the periscope cameras to spot and report any maintenance requirements. These pencil-sized robots are thermally protected from the extreme heat generated within an engine and the visual data they create would be used alongside the millions of data points already generated by today’s engines as part of their Engine Health Monitoring systems. This project is a partnership between Rolls-Royce, Oxsensis, BJR Systems, Roke Manor and the University of Nottingham.
Remote boreblending robots – teams from Rolls-Royce and the University of Nottingham have worked together to develop a robotic boreblending machine that can be remotely controlled by specialist engineers. In practice this means that complicated maintenance tasks, such as repairing damaged compressor blades using lasers to grind parts, could be completed by non-expert ‘local’ teams who would simply install the tool in the engine and then hand control of it over to a dedicated expert back in Rolls-Royce’s Aircraft Availability Centre who would then direct its work remotely. This removes the need for specialist teams to travel to the location of an aircraft needing maintenance, vastly reducing the time required to return it to service.
FLARE – a pair of ‘snake’ robots which are flexible enough to travel through an engine, like an endoscope, before collaborating to carrying out patch repairs to damaged thermal barrier coatings. This project is a partnership between Rolls-Royce, University of Nottingham and Metallisation.
Speaking at the event, Richard
Goodhead, Rolls-Royce, Senior Vice President – Marketing, said: “The
advancements we are making in robotics are a great example of us
bringing our IntelligentEngine vision to life. By exploring how we might
use the rapid progress we are seeing in fields such as digital and
robotics, we are ensuring that Rolls-Royce will continue to lead the way
in service innovation, offering the very best value for our customers.”