Simulation at the Heart of an Automated Aerospace Manufacturing Process
The traditional use of simulation software in aerospace manufacturing applications has been as a pre-production tool for the validation of tool paths and the generation of robot programs. Once the process has been proven via simulation, the data is then transferred to the machine or robot and the production process executed. This is a linear approach in which the virtual and real systems are operated independently and in a serial manner. The current capabilities of offline programming (OLP) and simulation systems when combined with appropriate hardware in a flexible manufacturing environment now allow them to be used right at the heart of a manufacturing process, as an integral part of the manufacturing route. In a flexible manufacturing cell such as that developed at the University of Nottingham for the automated assembly and riveting of large aerostructures, a key driver is the need to reduce or eliminate complex and costly jigs and fixtures for part positioning.