Automated manufacture of a STeM winglet box structure.

GKN Aerospace-led project automates assembly of aircraft wing structures

GKN Aerospace is leading a project under the Structures Technology Maturity (STeM) program that aims to automate the assembly of aircraft structures with the goal of creating consistently high-quality wing structures 30% faster than is possible today. This STeM program is based around an advanced winglet as the demonstrator component, using this to progress a range of innovative assembly technologies. The complete assembly tooling and robotic strategy for the winglet has been developed by GKN Aerospace in collaboration with the advanced manufacturing research centre (AMRC) at Sheffield University and NIKON Metrology. Designed to be generic and therefore equally applicable to many future aircraft wing and fuselage structures, the process uses many emerging automated and robotic techniques that, as well as speeding assembly, will provide an extremely consistent end product. Among the novel processes being progressed through this STeM programme are: lightweight fixturing, reconfigurable tooling, automated part positioning, assisted deposition of sealant, metrology assisted robotics, lightweight drilling heads, lightweight fastening heads for single-sided fasteners, automated scanning for accurate countersink drilling, and automated fastener inspection.

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