CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Automation in aerospace launch 'riveting' new project
Automation in aerospace launch "riveting" new project
Keywords Aerospace industry, Robots, Automatic
A new project researching automation problems within the aerospace industry has recently been launched, announcing a joint collaboration between the University of Nottingham, Comau UK Ltd., Bombardier Short Brothers plc and ATA Engineering Processes. The project is designed to investigate the feasibility of further developing jigless assembly within the aerospace industry. The main aims of the project are to reduce the need for manufacture of subassemblies, and develop a flexible automated system for riveting aero-structure components and exploiting opportunities that arise.
Currently the manufacture of large aero-structures involves a number of discrete stages where subassemblies of increasing size and complexity are progressively combined to produce a final structure. Manufactured from sheet metal and formed sections, these sub-assemblies are riveted together within jigs, and then in turn are riveted together. The riveting of the smaller sub-sections is primarily an automated operation, traditionally using very large, expensive machines costing between £2.5-3 million, requiring large areas of factory space and purpose-built foundations.
The research will feature the development of a purpose designed and end-effector, combining drilling and riveting of sheet alloy materials. Comau's Tricept Robot (see Plate 1) provides a dextrous robotic platform deemed ideal for carrying an end-effector in the most effective and economic way. As the riveting operation support is required from both sides of the workpiece, a purpose designed automatic support system possibly based on a second Tricept parallel machine structure will follow the first Tricept on the opposite side to prevent deformation during the riveting process.
Plate 1 Comau's Tricept robot
A flexible automated riveting system has the potential virtually to eliminate the need for subassembly manufacture by transferring most of the manufacture to a single jig. The results of this work will have significant benefits to the aerospace industry by reducing tooling costs, and providing faster manufacture and reduction to space and therefore overheads.
Project leader Phil Webb, based at The University of Nottingham's School of Mechanical, Materials, Manufacturing Engineering and Management, says "We chose to involve the Tricept robot for its stiffness and multiprocessing capability. These versatile robots can perform several different manufacturing processes, including drilling, trimming and riveting around the fuselage. This will significantly reduce costs and lead times", he added.
For further information, please contact: Robert Lewis, Comau UK Limited, Unit 3 Hortonwood 32, Telford, Shropshire TF1 4EU. Tel: +44(0)1952 670396; Fax: +44(0) 1952 670398.