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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Automating aerospace assembly
Article Type: Aerospace technology From: Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal, Volume 21, Issue 6
In collaboration with National Research Council Canada (NRC), Montreal-based Bombardier Aerospace has introduced its first robotics system for the assembly of aircraft components.
Designed to improve productivity in a broad sense, the system also reduces tendonitis and related health problems in workers by improving their working conditions, says Claude Perron, group leader of automation and robotics at the NRC Institute for Aerospace Research in Montreal. Currently, the robots are working three shifts.
“Since 2004, we have been helping a couple of aerospace companies develop robotics to help replace human processes,” adds Perron. “The industry wants to improve quality and repeatability, and replace processes that cause tendonitis and other musculoskeletal illnesses, thereby improving working conditions for employees.”
With help from NRC, Bombardier has implemented an automated positioning system, whereby robots replace a human operator, who would previously position a fuselage panel on a riveting machine. “Now, instead of handling the fuselage panel, workers sit in front of a computer screen and monitor the positioning operations done by the robots,” says Perron.
According to Perron, the robotics system was a collaborative creation: Bombardier developed the human-machine interface and fixtures, while NRC researchers led by Bruno Monsarrat developed technologies for calibrating and controlling collaborative robot work-cells, as well as new off-line programming methods.
“There are several steps in the assembly process where robots could be or are starting to be used in the aerospace industry,” notes Perron. “Every time a worker has to apply a tool to a part there can be health issues.” And due to potential labour shortages in the aerospace industry, the pressure to automate will intensify.