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Technical Paper

Force Feedback for Assembly of Aircraft Structures

Variability in composite manufacture and the limitations in positional accuracy of common industrial robots have hampered automation of assembly tasks within aircraft manufacturing. One way to handle geometry variations and robot compliancy is to use force control. Force control technology utilizes a sensor mounted on the robot to feedback force data to the controller system so instead of being position driven, i.e. programmed to achieve a certain position with the tool, the robot can be programmed to achieve a certain force. This paper presents an experimental case where a compliant rib is aligned to multiple surfaces using force feedback and an industrial robot system from ABB. Two types of ribs where used, one full size carbon fiber rib, and one smaller metal replica for evaluation purposes. The alignment sequence consisted of several iterative steps and a search procedure was implemented within the robot control system.
Technical Paper

Modular and Configurable Steel Structure for Assembly Fixtures

This paper will present the latest development of a configurable and modular steel construction system for use in frameworks of flexible fixtures of the kind called Affordable Reconfigurable Fixtures (ART). Instead of a dedicated aircraft fixture, which is very time consuming and expensive, the ART fixtures enable affordable construction from a standard component kit, by solving the main drawbacks of traditional tooling. In early 2009 Airbus UK built the first steel modular fixture for the aerospace industry. The project was a partnership with DELFOi and Linköping University in a project called ReFlex, Reconfigurable Flexible Tooling. A paper was presented in the last year SAE conference which explained about the project in overall. The construction system called BoxJoint has recently been tested in some manufacturing areas at Airbus UK and also been applied in the production at Saab Aerospace Linköping Sweden.
Technical Paper

Numerical Template

This paper presents an innovative solution of portable drilling machine, lightweight and low cost, dedicated to drilling operations on single and double curved aircraft structure. Aircraft Standard drilling process mainly uses drilling templates combined with Automated Drilling Units (ADU) which is a very efficient solution. However, the management of templates and ADUs is a time consuming and costly task in regards to the large quantity of existing references spread over every aircraft production sites. Therefore, to help reducing those costs and also workload, the concept of the Numerical Template (NCT) has been designed, using classic and robust mechanical devices, hand-held, lightweight and universal. NCT architecture concept could led to a family of NCT with different dimensions of frame parts(X,Y,Z), fitted to the targeted area geometry. The system is able to guaranty an accuracy of ± 0.5 mm and a normality of ±0.5°.
Technical Paper

Use of an Innovative Modular Gripper System for Flexible Aircraft Assembly Operations

The rising demand for civil aircraft leads to the development of flexible and adaptive production systems in aviation industry. Due to economic efficiency, operational accuracy and high performance these manufacturing and assembly systems must be technologically robust and standardized. The current aircraft assembly and its jigs are characterized by a high complexity with poor changeability and low adaptability. In this context, the use of industrial robots and standardized jigs promise highly flexible and accurate complex assembly operations. This paper deals with the flexible and adaptable aircraft assembly based on industrial robots with special end-effectors for shaping operations. By the development and use of lightweight gripper system made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics the required scaling, robustness and stiffness of the whole assembly system can be realized.
Technical Paper

Snake-Arm Robots: A New Approach to Aircraft Assembly

This paper describes work being conducted by OC Robotics and Airbus to develop snake-arm robot technology suitable for conducting automated inspection and assembly tasks within wing boxes. The composite, single skin construction of aircraft structures presents new challenges for robotic assembly. During box close-out it is necessary for aircraft fitters to climb into the wing box through a small access panel and use manual or power tools to perform a variety of tasks. These manual interventions give rise to a number of health and safety concerns. Snake-arm robots provide a means to replace manual procedures by delivering the required tools to all areas of the wing box. The advantages of automating in-wing processes will be discussed. This paper presents early stage results of the demonstration snake-arm robot and outlines expectations for future development.
Technical Paper

Snake-Arm Robots: A New Approach to Aircraft Assembly

This paper describes work being conducted by OC Robotics and Airbus to develop snake-arm robots to conduct assembly tasks within wing boxes - an area currently inaccessible for automation. The composite, single skin construction of aircraft structures presents new assembly challenges. Currently during box close-out it is necessary for aircraft fitters to climb into the wing box through small access panels and use manual or power tools to perform a variety of tasks. In future wing designs it may be that certain parts of the wing do not provide adequate access for manual assembly methods. It is also known that these manual interventions introduce health and safety concerns with their associated costs. Snake-arm robots provide a means to replace manual procedures by delivering the required tools to all areas of the wing box. Such a development has broader implications for aircraft design and assembly.
Technical Paper

Automated Wing Drilling System for the A380-GRAWDE

On Airbus aircraft, the undercarriage reinforcing is attached through the lower wing skin using bolts up to 1-inch in diameter through as much as a 4-inch stack up. This operation typically takes place in the wing box assembly jigs. Manual hole drilling for these bolts has traditionally required massive drill templates and large positive feed drill motors. In spite of these large tools, the holes must be drilled in multiple steps to reduce the thrust loads, which adds process time. For the new A380, Airbus UK wanted to explore a more efficient method of drilling these large diameter holes. Introducing automated drilling equipment, which is capable of drilling these holes and still allows for the required manual access within the wing box assembly jig, was a significant challenge. To remain cost effective, the equipment must be flexible and mobile, a llowing it to be used on multiple assemblies.
Technical Paper

Drilling Cost Model

The paper describes a way of generating a cost model, which is aimed to compare different drilling processes. The development of this tool is a part of an ongoing European Union funded aircraft industry project called ADFAST (Automation for Drilling, Fastening, Assembly, Systems Integration, and Tooling). This part of the project involves 4 industrial partners, (Alenia, Airbus Espana SL, Airbus UK and Saab AB), 1 equipment developer (Novator AB) and 1 academic institute (Linkoping University). The model has been created to enable the benefits of an advanced system such as orbital drilling to be quantified. The model is able to generate a cycle time and a cost for the whole drilling process involving equipment, consumables and assembly of varied aircraft structures. The challenge of the task was to develop the ability of modeling a process with a sequence of drilling operations that the model user, in an intuitive way, can select and modify.
Technical Paper

A Study of the Influence of Drilling Method and Hole quality on Static Strength and Fatigue Life of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic Aircraft Material

This paper describes ongoing research on the effects of hole quality on basic material properties / allowables of carbon fibre composite material. Using a novel test programme, the benefits of orbital drilling over traditional (or conventional) methods have been compared. Static (compression and tension) and dynamic (fatigue) tests have been performed on standard aerospace industry coupons. In order to identify the influence of the drilling method on the fracture behavior and fatigue properties of the material, acoustic emission has been performed during the testing. Roundness and surface replica studies have enabled the geometrical properties of the holes to be defined at different stages of the test. These measurement techniques were performed in order to correlate and understand the preliminary results of the tests.
Journal Article

Aircraft Wing Build Philosophy Change through System Pre-Equipping of Major Components

In the civil aircraft industry there is a continuous drive to increase the aircraft production rate, particularly for single aisle aircraft where there is a large backlog of orders. One of the bottlenecks is the wing assembly process which is largely manual due to the complexity of the task and the limited accessibility. The presented work describes a general wing build approach for both structure and systems equipping operations. A modified build philosophy is then proposed, concerned with large component pre-equipping, such as skins, spars or ribs. The approach benefits from an offloading of the systems equipping phase and allowing for higher flexibility to organize the pre-equipping stations as separate entities from the overall production line. Its application is presented in the context of an industrial project focused on selecting feasible system candidates for a fixed wing design, based on assembly consideration risks for tooling, interference and access.