Flexapods - Flexible Tooling at SAAB for Building the NEURON Aircraft 2010-01-1871
Building prototype aircrafts is costly in tooling especially since only one aircraft is being built. Today's most common tooling strategy is to weld together a beam framework. Welded framework solutions have long lead times both in design and manufacturing and once the aircraft is assembled the tool becomes obsolete. Flexible tooling strategy uses non-welded tooling thus it can be changed and re-used for future products. Early version of a new aircraft model is always hampered by frequent changes in its design, which is cumbersome to handle in a welded framework solution. This paper presents a flexible assembly tooling solutions based on Flexapods and BoxJoint. The Flexapods are commercialized reconfigurable tooling units that are manually adjusted injunction with a laser tracker to a final positional accuracy of +/? 0,05 mm absolute accuracy. An operator software program called the Flexapod control panel collect metrology data in real-time and an operator screen show graphics on how to manually jog the Flexapod joints to reach the final Cartesian 3D-coordinate. The Flexapods are installed in a modular steel based framework solution called BoxJoint. A complete PLM package has been developed for the solution where the Flexapods are configured in CATIA using an add-on package to CATIA called the Flexapod configurator. All CATIA data is stored in ENOVIA. Once the Flexapod fixture is designed in CATIA a file, containing all Cartesian coordinates of the Flexapods, is exported and loaded into the Flexapod control panel on the workshop floor. A previous paper on the Flexapod as an early concept and a paper on BoxJoint have been presented at SAE Aerofast. This paper follows up on these results and presents a case study at SAAB Aeronautics for implementing the first industrial solution of Flexapods to build the military unmanned aerial vehicle - nEURON.