Assembly technologies and adaptive application systems

Assembly, adhesive bonding, sealing, and shimming – automated to meet the needs of industry


Competence in adhesive bonding technology

The Fraunhofer IFAM possesses extensive know-how and many years of experience in the area of partially automated and fully automated joining processes involving adhesive bonding. Process safety and bonded joints with a long service life are assured.


From concept to production plant

In close collaboration with customers and taking into account their requirements, Fraunhofer IFAM scientists develop joining processes for lightweight structures on up a 1:1 scale. They also develop customized, integrated production and plant concepts right through to large production scale plants. They solve production shortcomings by, for example, accelerating assembly processes by reducing adhesive curing times and implementing process automation, whilst simultaneously making cost-savings. The researchers also develop customized application systems and processes for sealants and also fillers for shimming, along with respective application units that are usually robot end-effectors.


Consideration of the adhesive properties

The Fraunhofer IFAM experts develop solutions for the automation of bonding processes hitherto carried out manually, where it is desired to keep using the same adhesive: This involves the automation of complex manual actions and automated feeding, mixing, and dosing of adhesive systems that were not developed for automated processing.

Automated assembly

Automated joining of small components on aircraft fuselages.
© Fraunhofer IFAM
Automated joining of small components on aircraft fuselages.
Plant for the automated assembly of aircraft fuselages.
© Fraunhofer IFAM
Plant for the automated assembly of aircraft fuselages.

The challenge of automated large structure assembly

The automated processing of adhesives, sealants, and fillers in large structure assembly requires different strategies than used for the large series production of smaller products:

  • All the work steps must adapt to the actual geometries of the components, many of which have dimensional variation. Depending on the task, various referencing strategies are used for this, ranging from local referencing on the component to global referencing of all process elements.
  • The process starts with surface treatment. This process effectively cleans, abrades, or activates the surface despite any component variations, without the unprotected joining zone being adversely affected.
  • Another major difference concerns how different and uneven gap sizes are dealt with. The Fraunhofer IFAM team has developed technologies that automatically measure gap sizes and apply the correct quantities of adhesive, sealant, or filler to fully fill those gaps with defined excess.
  • When joining components with extensive bonding areas, the joining forces that develop play an important role. These increase particularly quickly for viscous adhesives with decreasing gap widths. In order to create a simple and adaptable plant layout Fraunhofer IFAM develops compact actuators and does without conventional heavy steel frameworks.
  • A further focus is the accelerated curing of adhesives such that bonded components are immediately secure and cycle times reduced.

Fraunhofer IFAM in Stade has a large hall (80 x 50 m in area, 25 m in height) for the realization and testing of plant technology on up to a 1:1 scale.


Quality-assured joining

The range of services also includes in-process and accompanying measures for quality assurance, for example monitoring using surface sensors and cameras.