Airborne selected by GKN Aerospace to deliver a fully Automated Preforming Line, revolutionizing Aerospace manufacturing for next generation aircraft.

The Hague,26th June 2023 – GKN has selected Airborne to supply a fully automated preforming line to the Global Technology Centre, Bristol, UK. The system will integrate an Automated Ply Placement (APP) cell by Airborne, Automated Preform Trimming by Accudyne Systems, a ply cutter from Assyst Bullmer, and a Hot Drape Former by PAC Group.


The system will transform broad goods such as woven or NCF materials into 3D preforms suitable for RTM. Cut shapes can be optionally stored in Airborne’s buffer enabling “out of sequence” nesting minimising material waste and improving cost and sustainability. Plies will be assessed using a vision system and then via “pick and weld” assembled into 2D tailored blank preforms. These will be 3D formed by the Hot Drape Former and then finally trimmed to shape on the trimming cell.

Automated Programming

Each sub-system will be integrated by Airborne into our Automated Programming software platform. Each device can be operated stand-alone however in automated mode the system will translate design and process input into  individual controls and robot code without the need for programming. The system will generate instructions on the fly enabling flexible manufacturing.


The system will initially be deployed to fulfil objectives of the “ASCEND” project. GKN Aerospace is leading a UK industry consortium called ASCEND (Aerospace and Automotive Supply Chain Enabled Development) to develop and accelerate composite material and process technologies for the next generation of energy efficient aircraft and future mobility. The £40m consortium, funded by a £20.0M commitment from industry and a £19.6M commitment from the UK Government via ATI, will focus on greater adoption of composite technologies today, the industrialization of new technologies, as well as accelerating aerospace production rates to meet future high-volume requirements. The collaboration will help develop technologies from across the UK supply-chain to develop the advanced materials and automation equipment required to manufacture lightweight structures for the sustainable air mobility, aerospace and automotive industry. The new Automated Preforming Cell from Airborne will provide the capability to manufacture next generation components for the aerospace market.

Joe Summers, Commercial Director of Airborne and Managing Director of Airborne UK said “this major commitment from GKN Aerospace to Airborne’s technology further supports our goal to offer flexible automation solutions and workflow automation enabling higher rate manufacturing of composite structures”.

About Airborne

At Airborne we know that innovation in manufacturing through automation, digitalisation and advanced analytics is the catalyst for the significant increase in productivity that companies need to stay competitive. We understand the complexity and cost involved in producing composite products for demanding applications in highly regulated industries. Our legacy in advanced composites manufacturing makes us experts in developing and delivering automated solutions that enable our customers to achieve high production rates and radically low conversion costs.

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