Handheld Automation may appear to be a contradiction in terms. It is not.
A wide range of assembly methodologies are currently employed in support of aircraft assembly, two very specific approaches predominate.
The most popular approach, which accounts for the majority of the fasteners installed in current production aircraft, consists of a manual process. This requires the operator to perform manual operations in each of the many, if not all, of the steps involved in installing fasteners. Steps include fastener selection, sealant application, fastener insertion, fastener deformation, pin extraction, collar application, or torqueing, as the fastener may require.
The other end of the spectrum involves total automation where all of the steps are performed by a machine, with little or no manual involvement by the operator, other than supervision.
Handheld automation bridges the gap between these extremes. The cost is commensurate with the tools normally associated with manual installation methods, yet the productivity, when measured on a per dollar of cost basis, outdistances the majority of automated systems currently employed by the industry.
Handheld automation permits fasteners to be chosen to automatically fit a previously established installation pattern. Sealant can be automatically applied to the fasteners, and the insertion, deformation, pin pulling and torqueing steps can be performed without the operator handling any of the fastener's component parts.
A description of lock-bolt Handheld automation is provided and the experience gained in the development and application of this tool is explained.