Lufthansa Technik AG (LHT) has joined forces with electronic component and sensor manufacturer Pepperl+Fuchs GmbH to create a new company devoted to innovative automation solutions for the aviation industry. The equally owned joint venture, called 3D.aero GmbH, was established in December 2017 with headquarters at the ZAL TechCenter in Hamburg-Finkenwerder. LHT says the location, which is one of the largest and most modern aviation research centers in the world, was chosen to enable 3D.aero to network with other aviation companies. 3D.aero’s team will mainly include Pepperl+Fuchs employees and Hamburg University of Technology graduates from the Institute for Aircraft Production Technology.
Bernard Krueger-Sprengel, Senior VP Engine Services at LHT, says the company is delighted with the new venture. “This will enable us to keep pursuing our Industry 4.0 strategy and use this know-how for our processes and products,” he says.
3D.aero’s work will focus on solutions to digitalize workshops. In addition to offering workshop and factory automation solutions, 3D.aero’s services will include the application of optical measuring devices, digital inspection and image processing applications. The startup will also offer related consulting services.
According to Mona-Caroline Stuenckel, head of innovation management and product development, engine services at LHT, 3D.aero will utilize a number of sensor technologies from Pepperl+Fuchs. “We are using different optical sensor technologies for generating and constantly updating digital twins in the workpieces, which are appearing only in very small lot sizes in the aviation industry,” says Stuenckel. “Right now, we are using laser triangulation sensors as well as time-of-flight based sensors. In addition, we are right now integrating the white light interferometry technology in an industrial robot inspection application.”
Although it was founded as part of a project within LHT’s engine services division, 3D.aero will serve all divisions within the company along with other industry customers. According to Stuenckel, 3D.aero is currently working on projects for LHT, Airbus and Pepperl+Fuchs. For 2018, the company has received approval for four additional research projects in the “Luftfahrtforschung” program funded by the German Ministry of Economics.