How Robots are being Used in Aerospace Manufacturing

It’s no secret, airplanes are no small assembly project. These massive modes of transportation have an important job and carry the world’s most precious cargo, us. Most would be shocked to learn how much modern day plane builders rely on robots to ensure the public’s safety when in the air. Aerospace manufacturing robots do a variety of tasks that not only cover the building of the plane but also include several other applications such as cleaning, sanding and yes, even inspecting the plane.

Here are some ways we at FanucWorld support the Aerospace Manufacturing Industry:

  1. Welding Robots
  2. Machine Tending
  3. Robotic Drilling
  4. Inspection Robots
  5. Aircraft Washing Systems

Let’s break these down a little bit…

Robotic Welders or Welding Robots

With the sheer size of aircrafts being what they are, it makes sense why robotic welders are seen so much in the aerospace industry. In order to meet any kind of a production quota, airplane manufacturers need to be welding several different parts of the plane at one time. While this poses a serious safety risk with human welders, robotic welders can run next to each other simultaneously with no issues.

The other factor to this equation is the unique materials with which aerospace vehicles are made of. Being able to weld nickel-alloy and titanium material requires quite a bit of advanced skill that the average human welder does not possess. These robotic welders can not only perform these welds but can do so with near 100% precision making them the obvious choice.

Robotic Drilling or Drilling Robots

Did you know a Boeing 777 has over 60,000 rivets? To implement these rivets manufacturers depend on drilling robots to get the job done. Not only does the idea of riveting 60,000 holes sound utterly exhausting, it also takes a human four steps to complete each rivet. This includes drilling the initial hole, additional drilling to the exact specified diameter, reaming the hole, and finally the riveting itself. A drilling robot can complete all four steps in a one step pass taking a fraction of the time it would take a human.

But why use rivets when you have robotic welders? The body of the airplane is made of aluminum. When using aluminum, rivets are easier to inspect than welds and much easier to inspect. Another contributing factor is that should the aircraft experience extreme heat conditions, the rivets won’t weaken whereas a weld can.

Inspection Robots

With advances in vision and mobile capabilities, many manufacturers are also relying on robotics for quality assurances. This testing can be crucial both in the production line but also for active-duty aircrafts. Ultrasonic end-effector tools enable the robot to perform a variety of quality assurance tasks that ensure every rivet is secure and in the correct place as per protocol and design. The ability to run these inspections unattended leads to increased productivity without sacrificing the quality of the work being done.

Machine Tending Robots

A lot of parts made within an aerospace manufacturing facility rely on CNC machines to build the part. In prior times, a person would have to manually “tend” the machine by either loading or unloading pieces into the CNC machine.

Machine tending robots have changed the game for this application as a single armed robot is able to perform a variety of these tasks more safely than their human counterparts. Not only can the machine tending robot move the piece from one machine to another to continue the operation, it can also perform the quality checks of the part simultaneously to ensure the part is up to standards. This part of the process is thanks to the robot’s vision function. Pieces that do not meet the specifications of the design are placed into a “quarantine bin” and recycled.

Aircraft Cleaning Robots

Picture this, a robotic carwash. It’s not as far-fetched as you may think. Some of the top airplane manufacturers globally are implementing this type of automation in their factories. The best part is, one robot can do all three functions of getting the aircraft ready for paint. The robot starts by using a sanding end of arm tool to sand down the aircraft. Once sanded the robot can then rinse and wash the piece or aircraft by swapping out their end effector.  From there it is an easy step for the robot arm to switch it’s EoAT (end of arm tool) to dry the piece.

Our robotic consultants can assist in every part of the process. We have the knowledge and experience on hand to have your robot ordered and dressed out, ready for integration in no time! To get started, simply fill out our quote request form on this page and one of our robotic specialists will help you select the right refurbished robot for your application.

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