Browse Publications Technical Papers 2010-01-1848

Adaptive Automated Assembly of Wing System Components 2010-01-1848

A modern aircraft wing contains many complex pipes and ducts which, amongst other functions, form the fuel management and bleed air systems. These parts are often fabricated from thin sheet material using a combination of forming and welding and the manufacturing process is predominantly manual requiring highly skilled labor. Since each wing may only contain one or two of each part type the product volumes are very low, typically a few hundred per year. This means that conventional mass production approaches used in, for example the automotive industry, are not economically viable and the parts are thus disproportionately expensive.
The current fabrication process involves splitting the component into parts that can be press formed from sheet, laser trimmed and then manually welded together in a fixture. This process requires a perfect fit between the parts whose quality is reliant on the initial forming process. Problems often occur due to spring-back and stress release during the cutting process resulting in poorly aligned parts and the requirement for manual fettling.
The work described in this paper proposes an alternative more accurate method using reverse engineering to automatically generate the laser cutting path based upon the geometry of a previously cut component thus producing a matched pair of parts for welding. The process is described in detail and the results of the method's testing and evaluation using a real component from a wing fuel system are presented.


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