Battelle’s New Robot Fixes Airplane Windows, Could Save Millions | Print |  Email



News: Columbus, OH. 18, Oct. 2013–Battelle has developed a robotic system to repair the windows of the world’s airplanes. This system is a marriage of existing Battelle technology called the Automated Maintenance Robot (AMR) and a proven manual method of transparency restoration. But this isn’t just removing bugs and chips—it’s refurbishing expensive aircraft parts that can be reused, saving time and money while improving precision and consistency. And when it’s proven that the system is successful, it will be available for military and civilian use.


To see a video of the technology in action, click here.

Many airplane windows and other lenses aren’t made from glass because it isn’t strong or resilient enough for aviation uses. Instead, acrylic is used for windows, fixtures and cockpit canopies and is manufactured to exacting specific sizes and contours. However, within three to seven years, a phenomenon known as “crazing” begins to happen—weathering and microfracturing that dulls the clear surfaces into a milky, opaque mess.

Years ago, Ray Fontana, founder of RCF Inc., figured out a way to fix these parts, polishing them back to their original clarity. But the process requires technicians to buff out the scratches and crazing by hand, which takes a great deal of skill and education. Now, with Battelle software and specialized parts integrated with a Fanuc robotic arm, the process will be automated.

“This achievement can save the aviation industry millions and millions of dollars,” said Steve Kelly, President of Battelle’s National Security Division. “Integrating two existing technologies into a novel approach is a hallmark of Battelle’s strategy for solving really difficult problems.”

Battelle worked with Fontana to prove the robot can refurbish the cockpit canopy of the T-45A Goshawk, a tandem-seat jet trainer for Navy and Marine Corps pilots. When pilots are learning to fly at 600 miles an hour at 40,000 feet, they must have clear vision—but replacing the canopy would cost about half a million dollars. And canopies must be replaced or refurbished before returning to Ready for Tasking status—training, carrier detachment or combat maneuvering.

With deliveries underway, Battelle’s system replaces two trained, skillful technicians who require up to 10 days to polish the canopy by hand, allowing them to work on other projects and relieving them of a tedious, repetitive task. The robotic system works much faster, with consistent sanding pressure that ensures proper thickness of the material, thus making approval for flight usage easier to obtain.

Development of the system, with proprietary software at its heart, started years ago at Battelle and was known as the Multi-Use Robot System. It inspected B-52 wing fuel tanks, which had corrosion that caused paint to peel from their interior surfaces. The system now is showing that industrial robots can perform a variety of maintenance operations.

About Battelle

Every day, the people of Battelle apply science and technology to solving what matters most. At major technology centers and national laboratories around the world, Battelle conducts research and development, designs and manufactures products, and delivers critical services for government and commercial customers. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio since its founding in 1929, Battelle serves the national security, health and life sciences, and energy and environmental industries. For more information, visit www.battelle.org.

Canopy & Landing Light Repair




Onsite repair is available at a reasonable cost.


Flapper Peening Training with Boeing, Airbus & Bombardier

Serviced customers such as:

  • American Airlines
  • National Aviation Museum Foundation
  • FlexJet
  • US Marine Corp
  • Mesa Airlines
  • Mesaba Airlines
  • Lockheed Martine
  • Flight Options
  • FAA Oklahoma City
  • GKN Aerospace
  • Trans States Airlines
  • Iceland Air
  • Lufthansa
  • US Air



Luftansa Superstar Project:

Photos for the Luftansa Superstar wing plank repair shot peening are available under our Photo section under "Flapper Peening."



Landing Light Restoration



Landing light lenses cost between $4,000 and $9,000...Payback is immediate...Cost of the eight-hour course is $3,500 at the customer’s location and includes polishing customer lenses.




Canopy Information

Successful canopy restoration has been performed through the world using this process. Cost reduction has been achieved through more flight hours due to no crazing due to reduction of visibility. T-45, A-10, F-15, F-18, AVA-8 and others. In excess of $10 million has been saved in the past four years on the fleet of T-45 aircraft.  Three locations are using this process with great success.


RCF has done education and repairs in the US, South America, Central America, Europe and Aisa at a pricepoint well below our competitors but exceeding the expectations of our clients.  Craftsmenship, innovation and collaboration are our keys to client satisfaction.
Roto Flap Peening


Onsite repair is available at a reasonable cost.


Flapper Peening Training with Boeing, Airbus & Bombardier


Cost Effective Approach to Repairing OEM Shot Peened Parts for Aviation
for Managers of Aviation Repairs.

Aviation repair depends on the maintenance and replacement of parts according to the original manufacture’s and FAA specifications.  Shot peening provides the final part of repairing a component for installation.  However, shot peening services are expensive and can be inefficient for all but the largest operations.  The expense comes from finding a certified vendor, who can get the part completed correctly, on time, and according to specifications.  This can come at premium for time-sensitive repairs.  The greatest expense is not the repair of the part, but the decommissioning of the plane for an extended time of service and maintenance.    Unless the repair is a one-time repair, shipping a part for shot-peening services is inefficient.  Thus, managers of aviation repairs must analyze the costs of repairing shot peened parts through a variety of means.   This paper is a decision-makeing outline to help you analyze possible solutions maximizing price and downtime for the repair of OEM shot peened parts.


Possible Solutions: 
    1. Acquire OEM Part:  Purchase a new part
    2. Off-site FAA Certified Repairs: Sending out the part for repair
    3. On-site FAA Certified Repairs: Bringing in someone to the facility to do the work.
    4. Off-site FAA Certified Training of Employee(s): Send an employee to a school
    5. On-site FAA Certified Training of Employee(s): Bring in someone to train and certify employee
    6. On-site FAA Certified Training and Repair: Bring in someone to train, certify and work on the part at the same time.
              Non Destructive Testing (NDT):
                We offer non-destructive testing with ultrasonic and optical technologies.  NDT Service offered on demand 24/7.


                (Determining the thickness and servicability of the engine for an Embraer commuter jet)


                (Surveying damaged area with a 220-point inspection )