Snake-Arm Robots: A New Approach to Aircraft Assembly 2007-01-3870
This paper describes work being conducted by OC Robotics and Airbus to develop snake-arm robots to conduct assembly tasks within wing boxes - an area currently inaccessible for automation.
The composite, single skin construction of aircraft structures presents new assembly challenges. Currently during box close-out it is necessary for aircraft fitters to climb into the wing box through small access panels and use manual or power tools to perform a variety of tasks. In future wing designs it may be that certain parts of the wing do not provide adequate access for manual assembly methods. It is also known that these manual interventions introduce health and safety concerns with their associated costs.
Snake-arm robots provide a means to replace manual procedures by delivering the required tools to all areas of the wing box.
Such a development has broader implications for aircraft design and assembly. There is potential for considerable cost savings for the aerospace industry through reduced weight, improved aerodynamics, standardisation of assembly processes, increased rate and reduced health and safety costs.
This paper presents early results of the demonstration snake-arm robot and outlines expectations for future development. It also identifies critical design parameters for the snake-arm and considers the tools and processes delivered by the snake-arm.