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.