Back in 2008, XYREC identified the challenges in the sustainment of military aircraft. Decoating of aircraft is a very labor-intensive process, with long turnaround times, unsafe working conditions and negative effects for the environment. The CEO of XYREC set out to investigate solutions to provide a more efficient and cleaner alternative for decoating. This first initiative was partially funded by the Dutch government.
Technology & Demand
We conducted global research into methods for decoating, while exploring the business cases for automated robotic solutions. For this we consulted with a large group of users and owners of Aircraft MRO shops, to analyze demand and business value. In 2011, we determined that the use of a new laser technology could achieve faster turnaround times, but only if stronger lasers were developed, with more advanced technology to control the laser beam. XYREC was introduced to the Southwest Research Institute, that was already producing robots for the maintenance of fighter aircraft for more than 25 years, and we joined forces with Trumpf and EWI to develop the required technology. In 2012 the first conceptual proposal for our robot left the drawing boards.
Building a Business Case & Going to Market
Preliminary tests with laser decoating were assessed by the NLR and supported a favorable business case with much faster turnaround times and higher process quality, which our CFO introduced to the RVO – the Dutch government agency for entrepreneurs. Following a kick-off meeting in 2014, the Dutch Government granted an innovation credit and an informal investor was attracted. This enabled XYREC to start with the engineering of the first robot in 2015: The Laser Coating Removal Robot (LCR). In the next four years, XYREC developed the LCR, which is expected to enter markets mid-2019.
Looking at the Future
On the backdrop of a feasibility study for Airbus in 2015, Airbus expressed interest in paint robots built on a similar architecture as the LCR. Following this, we developed the Automatic Paint Robot (APR) which is expected to enter markets in 2021. In addition, new technology is being developed to decorate aircraft in record time in any color and pattern, with fully digital created content. This Direct Printing feature will soon be announced. In the near future, XYREC will expand on its formula and strategy, to service a broad spectrum of industries and markets in need of automated solutions.