Development of Portable and Flexible Track Positioning System for Aircraft Manufacturing Processes 2007-01-3781
The Boeing Company has recently developed a portable positioning system based upon its patented flexible vacuum track technology, in support of its commitment to lean manufacturing techniques. The positioning system, referred to as Mini Flex Track, was initially developed as an inexpensive drilling system that minimizes machine setup time, does not require extensive operator training due to its simple user interface, is general purpose enough to be used in varying airplane applications, and meets strict accuracy requirements for aircraft manufacturing. The system consists of a variable length vacuum track that conforms to a range of contours, a two-axis numerically-controlled positioning carriage that controls machine motion, an additional rail perpendicular to the vacuum rail that provides transverse motion, and an end effector that can perform various tasks. The modular system design enables high flexibility for manufacturing processes, accomplished by quickly swapping out various components. This paper will examine the positioning system design, operation, and end effector development to date, as well as the advantages of such a system for use in assembly processes.