Metrology in Aerospace Ideally, these moves will also help speed throughput, which is HELLER Aero island 1/2 ME
particularly important as orders climb for commercial aircraft. “I am starting to see the aerospace industry embrace au- tomation the way automotive did decades ago,” said Michael
For critical production parts in difficult materials, leading global aerospace manufacturers partner with Heller. And for good reason.
Kleemann chief engineer of Variation Reduction Solutions Inc. (VRSI; Plymouth, MI). VRSI started life in 1998 by serving up automation solutions to the automotive industry. Aerospace has its differences, though. Aside from size, lower production rates and increased complexity, there is a more pronounced need for flexible automation in aero- space. Robots need to drill different holes in different areas, insert different fasteners, unlike in automotive, which uses automation for limited repetitive tasks on an assembly line. “Integrated measurement brings both flexibility and precision to automat- ed processes,” Kleemann said. In fact, drilling holes and placing fasteners may be the ‘killer app’ for metrology-guided robotics. “Some esti- mate that 40% of the cost of an airframe assembly involves drilling and filling,” Kleemann explained.
Given his experiences in both automotive and aerospace, Kleemann predicts this shift will have an impact on future aerospace design and develop- ment. “Today, automotive products are designed to be built by robots. In aerospace, that is just beginning to be the case,” remarked Kleemann.
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For more information on how metrology is assisting automation, please see “Aerospace Automation Picks Up the Pace” on page 55.
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“There are two basic areas where we deliver our metrology devices,” says Paul Lightowler of Nikon (Brighton, MI). “One is in pure inspection, making sure the parts are correct. The other is in guiding assembly, using systems like our K-Series sensors to guide robots to drill holes and fill with fasteners.”