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Technical Paper

Applying a Concept for Robot-Human Cooperation to Aerospace Equipping Processes

Significant effort has been applied to the introduction of automation for the structural assembly of aircraft. However, the equipping of the aircraft with internal services such as hydraulics, fuel, bleed-air and electrics and the attachment of movables such as ailerons and flaps remains almost exclusively manual and little research has been directed towards it. The problem is that the process requires lengthy assembly methods and there are many complex tasks which require high levels of dexterity and judgement from human operators. The parts used are prone to tolerance stack-ups, the tolerance for mating parts is extremely tight (sub-millimetre) and access is very poor. All of these make the application of conventional automation almost impossible. A possible solution is flexible metrology assisted collaborative assembly. This aims to optimise the assembly processes by using a robot to position the parts whilst an operator performs the fixing process.
Journal Article

Applying Design for Assembly Principles in Computer Aided Design to Make Small Changes that Improve the Efficiency of Manual Aircraft Systems Installations

The installation of essential systems into aircraft wings involves numerous labour-intensive processes. Many human operators are required to perform complex manual tasks over long periods of time in very challenging physical positions due to the limited access and confined space. This level of human activity in poor ergonomic conditions directly impacts on speed and quality of production but also, in the longer term, can cause costly human resource problems from operators' cumulative development of musculoskeletal injuries. These problems are exacerbated in areas of the wing which house multiple systems components because the volume of manual work and number of operators is higher but the available space is reduced. To improve the efficiency of manual work processes which cannot yet be automated we therefore need to consider how we might redesign systems installations in the enclosed wing environment to better enable operator access and reduce production time.
Journal Article

Application of Local Mechanical Tensioning and Laser Processing to Modify the Residual Stress State and Microstructural Features of Multi-Pass HSLA Steel

In a multi-pass weld, the development of residual stress to a large extent depends on the response of the weld metal, heat affected zone and parent material to complex thermo-mechanical cycles during welding. Previous investigations on this subject mostly focused on mechanical tensioning or heat treatment to modify the residual stress distribution in and around the weld. In this research, microstructural refinement with modification of residual stress state was attempted by applying post weld cold rolling followed by laser processing. The hardening of the weld metal was evaluated after welding, post weld cold rolling and post weld cold rolling followed by laser processing. The residual stress was determined non-destructively by using neutron diffraction. Hardness results showed evidence of plastic deformation up to 4 mm below the weld surface.
Technical Paper

An Algorithm for Assembly Centric Design

This paper describes and demonstrates the use of an assembly centric design algorithm as an aid to achieving minimal hard tooling assembly concepts. The algorithm consists of a number of logically ordered design methodologies and also aids the identification of other enabling technologies. Included in the methodologies is an innovative systems analysis tool that enables the comparison of alternative assembly concepts, and the prediction and control of the total assembly error, at the outline stage of the design.
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.
Technical Paper

Design for Tooling to Enable Jigless Assembly - An Integrated Methodology for Jigless Assembly

Jigless assembly is an approach towards reducing the cost and increasing the flexibility of tooling systems for aircraft manufacture through the minimisation of productspecific jigs, fixtures and tooling. A new, integrated methodology has been developed, which uses a number of building blocks and tools, to enable design for jigless assembly as a result of a logical, step-by-step process. This methodology, AIM-FOR-JAM, is currently being applied to redesign the Airbus A320 Fixed Leading Edge for jigless assembly, as part of the ‘Jigless Aerospace Manufacture’ (JAM) project.
Technical Paper

Using Structurally Integrated Location and Reference Features in the Assembly of Large Aerospace Structures

This paper considers rhe use of structurally integrated location and reference features to simplify and to reduce the lead time and costs of assembling large aerospace structures. The location features are selected to fulfil a specific function based on restraint requirements and the necessary degree of precision to ensure that the Product Key Characteristics are achieved. Analysis of how to use structurally integrated location and reference features, indicates that their introduction will not be successful unless there is an integrated design team with a thorough understanding of the manufacturing processes and capabilities, the assembly processes, and the enabling technologies. The assembly of a single nose rib to a section of front spar is used as a typical assembly problem. Three alternative assembly processes are briefly described and used to illustrate the need for the industry to adopt an holistic approach to the design of aerostructure.
Technical Paper

Flyaway Tooling for Higher Quality, More Cost-Effective, Aerostructure

Co-production of aircraft is resulting in demands for higher standards of manufacturing quality to ensure that parts and sub-assemblies from different companies and countries are compatible and interchangeable. As a result the existing method of building aerostructure using large numbers of dedicated manufacturing jigs and assembly tools, is now seen as being commercially undesirable, and technologically flawed. This paper considers an alternative, potentially more cost-effective, approach that embraces digital design, manufacturing, and inspection techniques, and in which reference and tooling features are incorporated into the geometry of the component parts. Within the aerospace industry this technology is known as ‘Flyaway Tooling’.
Technical Paper

The Development of Automated Processes For The Manufacture of Cost-Effective Composite Wing-Boxes

The manufacturing cost of composite aerostructures is considerably higher than that of equivalent light-alloy ones. There are several reasons for this, but the transfer of the existing technology from military to civil aviation is identified as a major problem. Neither the designs, nor the methods of manufacture, are considered cost-effective when applied to very large, commercially competitive, structures. This problem was among those addressed within a multi-disciplinary, concurrent engineering project sponsored by BAe Airbus and the UK DTI. During the four year programme, alternative manufacturing technology was developed, and Pilot-plant equipment built. The Pilot-plant was successfully used to demonstrate that wing-box components can be more cheaply, more reliably, and more easily manufactured by simple, innovative, easily automated processes.
Technical Paper

Challenges of Digital Twin in High Value Manufacturing

Digital Twin (DT) is a dynamic digital representation of a real-world asset, process or system. Industry 4.0 has recognised DT as the game changer for manufacturing industries in their digital transformation journey. DT will play a significant role in improving consistency, seamless process development and the possibility of reuse in subsequent stages across the complete lifecycle of the product. As the concept of DT is novel, there are several challenges that exist related to its phase of development and implementation, especially in high value manufacturing sector. The paper presents a thematic analysis of current academic literature and industrial knowledge. Based on this, eleven key challenges of DT were identified and further discussed. This work is intended to provide an understanding of the current state of knowledge around DT and formulate the future research directions.