“Each plane has many thousands of fastener locations that need to be drilled and filled to complete a plane,” Mas- inick explained. “In addition to replacing manual processes, aerospace manufacturers are looking at robots as replace-
ments for dedicated-purpose machines that are more costly to procure and less flexible than an integrated robot cell or system.” Some examples, he added, are robotic fiber and tape placement for composite construction, ultrasonic NDI (nondestructive inspection), mechani- cal routing and trimming, and abrasive waterjet trimming. AGVs are being used to transport
subassemblies and heavy tooling that requires portability, he said. “The mobile robot platforms keep the factory floor clear of stationary ‘monuments’ and give the manufacturers the opportunity to move the automation to the work, rather than moving the work past the automation.”
Metrology Boosts Robotic Accuracy Many current aerospace automa- tion projects involve a heavy dose of metrology. While some of the aerospace developments mirror robotic automa- tion in the automotive world, there are distinct differences.
“There are two threads that we’ve been following for automation,” said Michael Kleemann, VRSI’s chief engineer-aerospace. “When you look at aerospace, generally you only see automation in either fabrication, more classical machine tools, or in very large, sort of purpose-built automated assem- bly machines. Assembly-level drilling and fastening has been catching on. But as aerospace primes start to look for greater cost savings and greater quality improvements due to automation, the automation industry needs to provide more flexible solutions.”
VRSI has focused on using robotics combined with metrology systems to use measurement to achieve the close toler- ances and requirements of aerospace, Kleemann said. “In aerospace, your production timelines, or your takt time for any