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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

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.
Journal Article

Technology Review of Thermal Forming Techniques for use in Composite Component Manufacture

2015-09-15
2015-01-2610
There is a growing demand for composites to be utilised in the production of large-scale components within the aerospace industry. In particular the demand to increase production rates indicates that traditional manual methods are no longer sufficient, and automated solutions must be sought. This typically leads to automated forming processes where there are a limited number of effective options. The need for forming typically arises from the inability of layup methods to produce complex geometries of structural components. This paper reviews the current state of the art in automated forming processes, their limitations and variables that affect performance in the production of large scale components. In particular the paper will focus on the application of force and heat within secondary forming processes. It will then review the effects of these variables against the structure of the required composite component and identify viability of the technology.
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.
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

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

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

Improvement of Planning and Tracking of Technology Maturity Development with Focus on Manufacturing Requirements

2013-09-17
2013-01-2261
This paper details the development of a user-friendly computerised tool created to evaluate the Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRL) of an emerging technology. The main benefits achieved are to manage technology development planning and tracking, make visually clear and standardised analysis, and improve team communication. The new approach is applied to the Technology Readiness Levels (TRL), currently used by Airbus Research & Technology (R&T) UK. The main focus is on the improvement of the analysis criteria. The first phase of the study was to interpret the manufacturing criteria used by Airbus at TRL 4, including a brief benchmarking review of similar practices in industry and other Airbus' project management tools. All information gathered contributed to the creation of a complete set of criteria.
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.
Technical Paper

Interface Management in Wing-Box Assembly

2011-10-18
2011-01-2640
Gaps between structural components have been a common problem since the start of aviation. This has usually been caused by the manufacturing tolerances of the components in question not being sufficiently tight. An example where such issues arise is in the assembly of a wing skin to rib feet to form an aircraft wing-box, where it is commonly found that, whilst some rib feet are in contact with the wing skin, others are spaced from it. Yet a strong connection between the wing skin and the rib feet is important to maintain the structural strength of the wing-box. To eliminate the existing gaps, the current approach, used in many manufacturing production lines, involves filling in the gaps to the required shape by applying liquid or solid shim to the rib feet. This is a relatively long and expensive process. To overcome these current inherent difficulties in interface management, a method to eliminate the shimming requirement between component interfaces is presented.
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