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Automated terahertz imaging of composites

ATTIC: Automated terahertz imaging of composites and tooling profiling


Composites (glass or carbon fibre) are becoming the main material for manufacturing future generation structures such as in aircrafts and wind turbines due to their inherent advantageous properties, like high stiffness-to-density and strength-to-weight ratios, which are not available with traditional materials. However, defects in composite can be introduced at various stages of the composite lifecycle such as during manufacturing, assembly and operation.

Drilling of fibre reinforced polymers is a complex process and it differs significantly from machining of conventional metals and alloys due to the anisotropic, non-homogeneous, highly abrasive and hard reinforced fibres characteristics of these materials. Several undesirable damages induced by drilling drastically reduce strength against fatigue, thus degrading the long-term performance of composite laminates. Among the problems caused by drilling, delamination is considered the major damage. It has been reported that, in aircraft industry, the rejection of parts consists of composite laminates due to drilling induced delamination damages during final assembly was as high as 60%.


The overall objective of this project is to develop the next generation non-destructive monitoring/inspection for composite during machining operation and in-service inspection. The system will enable the automated inspection thus, reducing manual workload for inspectors from tedious inspection processes, aiming towards zero-defects in the high value composite structure during its manufacturing and assembly stages.

The proposed development is based on the application of laser profilers to monitor the tools during machining of composites and inspect the manufactured parts using a terahertz imaging technique to ensure no defects are generated during the manufacturing phase. Advanced AI software will process the data, learning to automatically recognise and report the defects in composites parts, along with any wear and tear in tools. Robotic deployment of the inspection system will ease the process of inspection during manufacturing of aerospace composites parts.

ATTIC project image


The ATTIC solution will decrease the composites parts rejection rate by 20% due to tooling, machining and overall manufacturing defects. This will create huge savings and will increase the productivity of customers manufacturing aerospace composites parts. The commercialisation of ATTIC solution will create 54 million euros in revenue, 26 million in gross profits and 13 million euros in net profits for the consortium partners in 5 years.

Brunel Innovation Centre's Role

  • Development of laser profiler system to monitor composite drilling tool during manufacturing / assembly to prevent undesirable damages such as delamination and fibre pull-out induced by worn out tooling.
  • 3D image reconstruction and bespoke image processing algorithms for image enhancement (i.e. de-noising), features extraction and metrology.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) - machine learning algorithms using the acquired images for automated defect recognition and classification.
  • Component life estimation and optimisation of maintenance and tools replacement schedule from remaining life estimates.

Project Partners

  • FAR
  • FILL
  • TWI Ltd
  • Brunel University London

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Project last modified 25/02/2021