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Technical Paper

Low Cost Reconfigurable Jig Tooling and In-Process Metrology for High Accuracy Prototype Rotorcraft Wing Assembly

2019-09-16
2019-01-1877
Reconfigurable tooling frames consisting of steel box sections and bolted friction clamps offer an opportunity to replace traditional expensive welded steel tooling. This well publicized reconfigurable reusable jig tooling has been investigated for use in the assembly of a prototype compound helicopter wing. Due to the aircraft configuration, the wing design is pinned at both ends and therefore requires a higher degree of end to end accuracy, over the 4m length, than conventional wings. During the investigation some fundamental issues are approached, including: Potential cost savings and variables which effect the business case. Achievable Jig accuracy. Potential sources of instability that may affect accuracy over time. Repeatability of measurements with various features and methods. Typical jig stability over 24hrs including effects of small temperature fluctuations. Deflections that occur due to loading.
Technical Paper

Advanced Assembly Solutions for the Airbus RACER Joined-Wing Configuration

2019-09-16
2019-01-1884
The Rapid And Cost Effective Rotorcraft (RACER) is being developed by Airbus Helicopters (AH) to demonstrate a new Vertical Take-Off and Landing configuration to fill the mobility gap between conventional helicopters and aeroplanes. RACER is a compound rotorcraft featuring wings and multiple rotors. The wing arrangement suggested by AH is defined as a staggered bi-plane joined configuration with an upper and a lower straight wing, either side of the fuselage, connected at their outboard extent to form a triangular structure. The ASTRAL consortium, consisting of the University of Nottingham and GE Aviation Systems, are responsible for the design, manufacture, assembly and testing of the wings. Producing an optimised strategy to assemble a joined-wing configuration for a passenger carrying rotorcraft is challenging and novel. The objective of this work concerns all aspects of assembling the joined-wing structure.
Technical Paper

Demonstration of Transformable Manufacturing Systems through the Evolvable Assembly Systems Project

2019-03-19
2019-01-1363
Evolvable Assembly Systems is a five year UK research council funded project into flexible and reconfigurable manufacturing systems. The principal goal of the research programme has been to define and validate the vision and support architecture, theoretical models, methods and algorithms for Evolvable Assembly Systems as a new platform for open, adaptable, context-aware and cost effective production. The project is now coming to a close; the concepts developed during the project have been implemented on a variety of demonstrators across a number of manufacturing domains including automotive and aerospace assembly. This paper will show the progression of demonstrators and applications as they increase in complexity, specifically focussing on the Future Automated Aerospace Assembly Phase 1 technology demonstrator (FA3D).
Technical Paper

Leading Edge Assembly Real Time Process Monitoring Using Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

2019-03-19
2019-01-1367
The increasing global demand for commercial aircraft creates many new challenges in manufacturing including an increased need to maximize the automation of manufacturing processes. The purpose of this research is to develop the understanding of leading edge assembly processes using robot mounted tooling and an automated fixture with advanced process monitoring. Within this research real-time process monitoring data is acquired from an assembly operation and processed into an open cloud environment enabling advanced data analytics. Implementation of advanced analytics utilising process data could be developed for the use of machine learning algorithms which can lead to superior fault finding. The aim of this research is to improve product quality, reduce cost and increase process knowledge, enabling the potential for maximized online and offline process feedback.
Technical Paper

Restricted Access ‘C’ Clamping Smart Drilling Unit

2019-03-19
2019-01-1334
One way assembly of aero structures has the potential to significantly reduce build times. One of the solutions, which goes towards achieving this philosophy, is the use of a ‘C’ clamping automated drilling system. The Manufacturing Technology Centre has developed and manufactured a ‘C’ clamping automated drilling unit to overcome many of the limitations of current designs, which prevent their use on a broader range of structures. The drilling unit addresses issues with access, size and weight restrictions as well as economic factors. This technical paper will present the outcomes from the design and manufacture of the drilling unit that is to be used within restricted access areas, as either a hand held device or as a robotic end effector free from any cables or hoses, allowing full and unhindered articulation of any robot motion. The device’s services: power, tool lubrication, swarf extraction and control systems have been designed to be embedded, rendering it a standalone unit.
Technical Paper

Design of a Reconfigurable Assembly Cell for Multiple Aerostructures

2016-09-27
2016-01-2105
This paper presents novel development of a reconfigurable assembly cell which assembles multiple aerostructure products. Most aerostructure assembly systems are designed to produce one variant only. For multiple variants, each assembly typically has a dedicated assembly cell, despite most assemblies requiring a process of drilling and fastening to similar tolerances. Assembly systems that produce more than one variant do exist but have long changeover or involve extensive retrofitting. Quick assembly of multiple products using one assembly system offers significant cost savings from reductions in capital expenditure and lead time. Recent trends advocate Reconfigurable Assembly Systems (RAS) as a solution; designed to have exactly the functionality necessary to produce a group of similar components. A state-of-the-art review finds significant benefits in deploying RAS for a group of aerostructures variants.
Technical Paper

Variation Aware Assembly Systems for Aircraft Wings

2016-09-27
2016-01-2106
Aircraft manufacturers desire to increase production to keep up with anticipated demand. To achieve this, the aerospace industry requires a significant increase in the manufacturing and assembly performance to reach required output levels. This work therefore introduces the Variation Aware Assembly (VAA) concept and identifies its suitability for implementation into aircraft wing assembly processes. The VAA system concept focuses on achieving assemblies towards the nominal dimensions, as opposed to traditional tooling methods that aim to achieve assemblies anywhere within the tolerance band. It enables control of the variation found in Key Characteristics (KC) that will allow for an increase in the assembly quality and product performance. The concept consists of utilizing metrology data from sources both before and during the assembly process, to precisely position parts using motion controllers.
Technical Paper

High Accuracy Automated Drilling Processes for Achieving Laminar Flow

2016-09-27
2016-01-2095
Reduction of overall drag to improve aircraft performance has always been one of the goals for aircraft manufacturers. One of the key contributors to decreasing drag is achieving laminar flow on a large proportion of the wing. Laminar flow requires parts to be manufactured and assembled within tighter tolerance bands than current build processes. Drilling of aircraft wings to the tolerances demanded by laminar flow requires machines with the stiffness and accuracy of a CNC machine while having the flexibility and envelope of an articulated arm. This paper describes the development and evaluation of high accuracy automated processes to enable the assembly of a one-off innovative laminar flow wing concept. This project is a continuation of a previously published SAE paper related to the development of advanced thermally stable and lightweight assembly fixture required to maintain laminar flow tolerances.
Technical Paper

Automated Flexible Tooling for Wing Box Assembly: Hexapod Development Study

2016-09-27
2016-01-2110
The ability to adapt to rapidly evolving market demands continues to be the one of the key challenges in the automation of assembly processes in the aerospace industry. To meet this challenge, industry and academia have made efforts to automate flexible fixturing. LOCOMACHS (Low Cost Manufacturing and Assembly of Composite and Hybrid Structures) - a European Union funded project with 31 partners - aims to address various aspects of aero-structure assembly with a special attention directed to the development of a new build philosophy along with relevant enabling technologies. This paper aims to present the results on the developed wing box build philosophy and the integration of automated flexible tooling solutions into the assembly process. The developed solution constitutes the use of synchronized hexapods for the assembly of front spar to upper cover whereas another hexapod was developed to install a rib by using of a force feedback sensor.
Journal Article

Reconfigurable Assembly System Design Methodology: A Wing Assembly Case Study

2015-09-15
2015-01-2594
Current assembly systems that deal with large, complex structures present a number of challenges with regard to improving operational performance. Specifically, aerospace assembly systems comprise a vast array of interrelated elements interacting in a myriad of ways, resulting in a deeply complex process that requires a multi-disciplined team of engineers. The current approach to ramp-up production rate involves building additional main assembly fixtures which require large investment and lead times up to 24 months. Within Airbus Operations Ltd there is a requirement to improve the capacity and flexibility of assembly systems, thereby reducing non-recurring costs and time-to-market. Recent trends to improve manufacturing agility advocate Reconfigurable Assembly Systems (RAS) as a viable solution. Yet, adding reconfigurability to assembly systems further increases both the operational and design complexity.
Journal Article

Structural Quality Inspection Based on a RGB-D Sensor: Supporting Manual-to-Automated Assembly Operations

2015-09-15
2015-01-2499
The assembly and manufacture of aerospace structures, in particular legacy products, relies in many cases on the skill, or rather the craftsmanship, of a human operator. Compounded by low volume rates, the implementation of a fully automated production facility may not be cost effective. A more efficient solution may be a mixture of both manual and automated operations but herein lies an issue of human error when stepping through the build from a manual operation to an automated one. Hence the requirement for an advanced automated assembly system to contain functionality for inline structural quality checking. Machine vision, used most extensively in manufacturing, is an obvious choice, but existing solutions tend to be application specific with a closed software development architecture.
Technical Paper

Light Weight Aerospace Assembly Fixture

2015-09-15
2015-01-2496
There is the need to strive towards more advanced aircraft with the use of materials such as composites, and a desire to improve efficiency by achieving and maintaining laminar flow over a large proportion of the aircraft wing. Due to the high tolerances required to achieve laminar flow, the manufacturing processes and tooling will have to be revaluated to enable successful manufacture in a production environment. A major influence in achieving the key characteristics and tolerances is the assembly fixture. This paper details the design and manufacture of a carbon fibre based assembly fixture, required for a one-off build of an innovative leading edge wing concept. The fixture has been designed and optimised in order to make it adaptable, reconfigurable, and suitable for lifting as well as being thermally stable whilst maintaining laminar flow tolerances.
Technical Paper

Towards Self-Adaptive Fixturing Systems for Aircraft Wing Assembly

2015-09-15
2015-01-2493
The aim of this work was to develop a new assembly process in conjunction with an adaptive fixturing system to improve the assembly process capability of specific aircraft wing assembly processes. The inherently complex aerospace industry requires a step change in its capability to achieve the production ramp up required to meet the global demand. This paper evaluates the capability of adaptive fixtures to identify their suitability for implementation into aircraft wing manufacturing and assembly. To understand the potential benefits of these fixtures, an examination of the current academic practices and an evaluation of the existing industrial solutions is highlighted. The proposed adaptive assembly process was developed to account for the manufacturing induced dimensional variation that causes significant issues in aircraft wing assembly. To test the effectiveness of the adaptive assembly process, an aircraft wing assembly operation was replicated on a demonstrator test rig.
Journal Article

Axiomatic Design of a Reconfigurable Assembly System for Primary Wing Structures

2014-09-16
2014-01-2249
Aerospace assembly systems comprise a vast array of interrelated elements interacting in a myriad of ways. Consequently, aerospace assembly system design is a deeply complex process that requires a multi-disciplined team of engineers. Recent trends to improve manufacturing agility suggest reconfigurability as a solution to the increasing demand for improved flexibility, time-to-market and overall reduction in non-recurring costs. Yet, adding reconfigurability to assembly systems further increases operational complexity and design complexity. Despite the increase in complexity for reconfigurable assembly, few formal methodologies or frameworks exist specifically to support the design of Reconfigurable Assembly Systems (RAS). This paper presents a novel reconfigurable assembly system design framework (RASDF) that can be applied to wing structure assembly as well as many other RAS design problems.
Journal Article

Implementing Determinate Assembly for the Leading Edge Sub-Assembly of Aircraft Wing Manufacture

2014-09-16
2014-01-2252
The replacement for the current single-aisle aircraft will need to be manufactured at a rate significantly higher that of current production. One way that production rate can be increased is by reducing the processing time for assembly operations. This paper presents research that was applied to the build philosophy of the leading edge of a laminar flow European wing demonstrator. The paper describes the implementation of determinate assembly for the rib to bracket assembly interface. By optimising the diametric and the positional tolerances of the holes on the two bracket types and ribs, determinate assembly was successfully implemented. The bracket to rib interface is now secured with no tooling or post processes other than inserting and tightening the fastener. This will reduce the tooling costs and eliminates the need for local drilling, de-burring and re-assembly of the bracket to rib interface, reducing the cycle time of the operation.
Technical Paper

Review of Reconfigurable Assembly Systems Technologies for Cost Effective Wing Structure Assembly

2013-09-17
2013-01-2336
Airbus commercial wings are assembled manually in dedicated steel structures. The lead time to design, manufacture and commission these fixtures is often in excess of 24 months. Due to the nature of these fixtures, manufacturing is slow in responding to changes in demand. There is underused capacity in some areas and insufficient ramp-up speed where increased production rate is needed. Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems and Reconfigurable Assembly Systems (RAS) provide an approach to system design that provides appropriate capacity when needed. The aim of the paper is to review RAS technologies that are suitable for cost-effective wing structure assembly and what knowledge gaps exist for a RAS to be achieved. The paper examines successful cases of RAS and reviews relevant system design approaches. Cost savings are acknowledged and tabularised where demonstrated in research. The research gaps to realising a RAS for wing assembly are identified and different approaches are considered.
Journal Article

Emerging Technologies for Use in Aerospace Bonded Assemblies

2013-09-17
2013-01-2134
Several new technologies are now emerging to improve adhesive supply and formulation along with surface treatments that have the potential to offer significant improvements to both surface energy and cleanliness [3]. Additionally, the miniaturisation of laboratory techniques into portable equipment offers potential for online surface energy and chemical analysis measurement for use as quality control measures in a production environment. An overview of newly available technology is given here with several devices studied in further detail. Technologies assessed further in this paper are; portable surface contact angle measurement, ambient pressure plasma cleaning, portable FTIR measurement and adhesive mixing equipment. A number of potential applications are outlined for each device based on the operational technique. The practical aspects of implementation and the perceived technology readiness levels for operation, implementation and results are also given.
Technical Paper

A New Floating-Liner Test Rig Design to Investigate Factors Influencing Piston-Liner Friction

2012-04-16
2012-01-1328
The largest contribution to engine rubbing friction is made by the piston and piston rings running in the cylinder liner. The magnitude and characteristics of the friction behaviour and the influence on these of factors such as surface roughness, piston design and lubricant properties are of keen interest. Investigating presents experimental challenges, including potential problems of uncontrolled build-to-build variability when component changes are made. These are addressed in the design of a new motored piston and floating liner rig. The design constrains transverse movement of a single liner using cantilevered mounts at the top and bottom. The mounts and two high stiffness strain gauged load cells constrain vertical movement. The outputs of the load cells are processed to extract the force contribution associated with friction. The liner, piston and crankshaft parts were taken from a EuroV-compliant, HPCR diesel engine with a swept capacity of 550cc per cylinder.
Journal Article

Flexible Tooling for Wing Box Rib Clamping and Drilling

2011-10-18
2011-01-2639
Currently the wing box rib assembly process requires the manual location and temporary fixing of components within product specific jig or fixtures for drilling. After drilling and reaming, parts are separated, cleaned, deburred prior to adding sealant, reclaiming and final bolting, but this may significantly increase cost, manufacturing lead-time, reduces flexibility and cannot usually be economically modified for use on other aircraft types. Due to potential increase in demand for the next generation single isle aircraft, existing tooling solutions have to be improved and new technologies have to be developed. This paper describes the development and testing of flexible tooling to provide clamping and support for drilling wing box ribs to mating rib posts within a restricted environment. Results are presented along with a discussion of the problems that may be encountered during clamping trials.
Technical Paper

Fixturing and Tooling for Wing Assembly with Reconfigurable Datum System Pickup

2011-10-18
2011-01-2556
The aerospace manufacturing sector is continuously seeking automation due to increased demand for the next generation single-isle aircraft. In order to reduce weight and fuel consumption aircraft manufacturers have increasingly started to use more composites as part of the structure. The manufacture and assembly of composites poses different constraints and challenges compared to the more traditional aircraft build consisting of metal components. In order to overcome these problems and to achieve the desired production rate existing manufacturing technologies have to be improved. New technologies and build concepts have to be developed in order to achieve the rate and ramp up of production and cost saving. This paper investigates how to achieve the rib hole key characteristic (KC) in a composite wing box assembly process. When the rib hole KC is out of tolerances, possibly, the KC can be achieved by imposing it by means of adjustable tooling and fixturing elements.
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