Assembly of Airbus wings: 'AWBA' progress

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




(2000), "Assembly of Airbus wings: 'AWBA' progress", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 72 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Assembly of Airbus wings: 'AWBA' progress

Assembly of Airbus wings: "AWBA" progress

Keywords: AMTRI, Airbus, Wings, Assembly

AMTRI, the Macclesfield-based Advanced Manufacturing Technology Research Institute, reports that their work, as a member of the consortium charged with producing the Automatic Wing Box Assembly (AWBA) for large commercial aircraft, is now on course for completion by the end of this year. The other partners in the consortium part funded by the DTI CARAD programme are BAE Systems, Airbus; BAE Systems Sowerby Research Centre; AEA Technology; Tecnomatix; Leica; and UK Robotics.

With potential to be used on any large aircraft wings, the AWBA system is initially being constructed as a technology and feasibility demonstrator for automatic wing box assembly. Currently the assembly of wing boxes is manual in large dedicated jigs. AMTRI AMTRI Operations Director, Phil’Sholl, says:

Successful automation of the process will dramatically reduce lead times and make possible assembly of parts too large for conventional manual assembly.

AMTRI's role

AMTRI has been central to the development of the demonstrator concept, linking the wing design to manufacturing with sound production engineering. Working with other partners a full system concept has been generated.

AMTRI is responsible for providing several key elements, including the main gantry system, together with a rib carrying and placing robot, as well as a skin wrapping system. All of which will form part of a demonstrator to be built in BAE Systems, Airbus Broughton, which is intended to prove the validity of the technology and design of the whole assembly system.

AMTRI is additionally responsible for the design of advanced tooling to hold and clamp the ribs to the spars as well as "raft" equipment to transport the spars into, and wing boxes out of, the production cell.

Huge scale

With current and future Airbus wings ranging from 35m-40m in length, the scale of the whole enterprise can be seen to be massive. Even the demonstrator, which will be capable of showing that a three metre-long section of the largest (root-end) part of the wing box can be built automatically, is of formidable proportions. Each of the ribs involved measures some 6.0m long, from front to rear spar, and 2.5 metres deep.

Because the assembly is carried out with the wing in the vertical rather than the final horizontal plane, clearer floor space is left around the wing box for the robotic and skin drilling and fixing systems to access both surfaces of the wing. The price of this method is the requirement of a building with substantial headroom.

Because of the size constraints the demonstrator will be built in a dedicated building at Broughton, with the smaller parts being developed and, at least in part, tested before installation.

The project hopes to prove all the required technologies for Automatic Wing Box Assembly, thus bringing forward the day when all large Airbus wings will be built this way.

Details available from AMTRI. Tel: +44 (0) 1625 425421; Fax: +44 (0) 1625 434964.

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