National Manufacturing Institute Scotland

Spirit AeroSystems (Europe) Ltd


Inspection rates for metrology and non-destructive testing (NDT) operations are very dependent on the specific part and geometry.

This is an issue because increased production leads to the need for higher rates of productivity.

Over the next ten years Spirit AeroSystems could see productivity double but in order to meet this market demand process times across the entire operation will need to be reduced – including inspection.  

What we did

Tackling this challenge required a broad range of expertise, ranging from software and mathematics, through to metrology and automation. Over the course of the project, the AFRC and its partners worked in collaboration with Spirit to:

  • Develop an initial demonstrator, followed by a full-size, flexible, automated inspection facility, comprising three high-accuracy KUKA Quantec series robots
  • Integrate software to allow simultaneous robot control, metrology, and non-destructive testing, along with clear feedback to the operator
  • Reduce cycle time and cost by developing an efficient and intuitive user interface. 
3 robots in a row

David Watson, Senior Manager at Spirit AeroSystems (Europe) Advanced Technology Centre:

This project has allowed us to take academic research that would traditionally sit at the low end of the TRL scale within the confines of a university and implement it in an industrial scale environment to help benefit our manufacturing process. Centres such as the AFRC are vital to bridging the gap between academic research and industry: this project shows the benefits of doing exactly that."



The results are potentially transformative for manufacturing inspection:

  • Metrology at a rate of 15m2 per hour
  • NDT at a rate of 40m2 per hour
  • 60% reduction in inspection times

Continuing to work together throughout 2017, the team is looking at the development of the commercial application of the technology.