Browse Publications Technical Papers 2008-01-2292

Crawler Robots for Drilling and Fastener Installation: An Innovative Breakthrough in Aerospace Automation 2008-01-2292

Looking at ways to improve assembly techniques and cut lead times for serial and future programs, Airbus' research and technology team launched a project some years ago to evaluate greater automation of sub-components or final assembly lines.
The idea was to develop a new type of machine or ‘robot’ that could be attached to fuselage sections using suction cups, and walk along it while drilling and installing fasteners. A camera inside the robot takes a snapshot to work out its position on the part, so that it knows where to drill or install what. Once a fixed working area is complete, the robot moves itself into a new position and starts the process again until the whole surface is covered.
Three companies - Alema, MTorres and Serra - were approached to develop prototype robots along the same basic principles, although each was asked to follow a slightly different specification to test a range of options, such as weight, size and positioning. Each company developed a ‘crawler’ robot in conjunction with an Airbus team in Germany, France and Spain.
The prototypes were put through their paces together in a series of comparative tests, conducted in Toulouse in October 2007, which Airbus dubbed as the ‘crawler robot race’.
The goal of this paper is to describe this project starting by Airbus requirements and concluding by main results gained from the ‘crawler robot race’. In addition the 3 suppliers provide brief technical descriptions of the 3 prototype robots in order to explain the differences of each solution.


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