Browse Publications Technical Papers 2019-01-1876
2019-09-16

A portable numerical control drilling template 2019-01-1876

The automation market for aircraft assembly features several options, from deployable crawlers through mobile industrial manipulators to large scale riveters, not to mention fiber layup machines. When drilling, such equipment will typically handle at least a few hundred holes in a given area and setup, with the part most often being a nearly flat panel free of obstructions or with obstructions with a constant cross-section such as stringers. Automation is now widely employed in the manufacturing of wing and fuselage panels and major segment joints, to name a few uses. The assembly of inner structures, however, and especially those in the range of a hundred holes or less, located in areas of limited access crowded with other product structures or even positioning fixtures sitting outside and preventing machine access, is still largely manual and dependent on drilling templates or jigs (DJs). These are robust tools of simple use and very low maintenance, yet of relatively high manufacturing costs (many require 5-axis machining) and design costs (most are one off tools), low flexibility (cannot absorb product revisions such as vector changes) and specific use (only drill a single hole pattern). The use of DJs has seen significant progress with the adoption of Automated Drilling Units (ADUs), especially for thicker stacks and those containing harder materials such as steel and titanium, greatly improving operator ergonomics and decreasing cycle times with the adoption of auto-feed and lubrication, pecking and one-step drills. However its automatic positioning from hole-to-hole, effectively replacing the indexing function of a conventional DJ, is still not commercially available. This paper presents an equipment that mimics the mounting of conventional DJs, yet offering the convenience and flexibility of a digital tool, with the potential to replace templates as a universal commodity much like ADUs have become. In the present form it can mount to flat or 5-axis areas with up to a 7° curvature between the extremities, featuring a ~400x250mm footprint and 300x100mm work envelope, 0.3mm positioning accuracy and 1° normality tolerance, onboard controllers and a <10kg weight, being able to drill and countersink holes.

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