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Reconfigurable tooling for airframe assembly: a state-of-the-art review of the related literature and a short presentation of a new tooling concept
Linköping University, Department of Mechanical Engineering. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
2001 (English)Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

From the early days of aircraft manufacturing Dedicated Tooling has been used in the assembly process to ensure the attainment of assembly tolerances and product quality. Dedicated Tooling clamps the aircraft parts to be assembled into the jig to enable assembly by riveting. However, increased competition in the aircraft industry has driven the need to improve quality while reducing cost and in turn the need for innovative solutions to accomplish this.

In this review paper the possibility of using metrology to increase the position accuracy in robotics will be examined. This is necessary to be able to use robotics in assembly of aircraft parts with the appropriate accuracy. Also, because of the small product volumes in the aircraft industry, the jigs must be flexible in order to assemble more than one structure in each jig. Solving these two problems could be the break through for starting to use robotics in aircraft assembly at a higher rate, and doing so in a cost-effective way.

By then reviewing literature of today's flexible tooling technology in the aircraft industry, the conclusion indicates that there is a gap to fill in aircraft assembly tooling. Modular Tools is one solution where standard aluminium profiles are used to manufacture jigs with some degree of flexibility. Another way is pogo fixturing, which uses sticks to hold airframe parts together in the assembly process. The sticks can only be reconfigured in a limited range, and are not cost-effective. By using Affordable Reconfigurable Tooling, the jigs will not only have greater ability to be reconfigured, but by using robotics for the reconfiguration task as well as for drilling, riveting and other material handling tasks, the system will also be cost effective.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA: University of Michigan , 2001.
Keyword [en]
Reconfigurable, Airframe, Assembly, Tooling, Flexibility, Affordable
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-73297OAI: diva2:471234
CIRP 1st International Conference on Agile, Reconfigurable Manufacturing, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, 21-22 May
Available from: 2012-01-13 Created: 2012-01-02 Last updated: 2012-11-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Affordable automation for airframe assembly: developing of key enabling technologies
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Affordable automation for airframe assembly: developing of key enabling technologies
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Building aircraft is a challenging field. An aircraft has a life expectancy of 40 years, compared to just 10 years for a car. Given the vibrations of flying at close to Mach one at an altitude of 10,000 meters, these machines must function flawlessly in a tough environment. This demands high quality in the assembly processes. The typical part joining process in the automotive industry is welding, whereas in the aircraft industry, assembly is made through drilling, followed by fastening. The typical tolerances for part location in aircraft assembly, as well as for hole drilling, is +/- 0.2 mm.

This dissertation discusses the use of industrial robots, widely used for welding and pick-and-place operation for automotive industry, in the automation of the aircraft industry, and specifically for the drilling of holes in the assembly process of airframe parts. The dissertation presents how a new drilling technology called orbital drilling is incorporated with and industrial robot. Orbital drilling reduces the cutting forces up to ten times compared to conventional drilling using a spiral cutter.

The robot is also utilized for performing changeovers between different airframe structure types. A novel jointed reconfigurable tooling system called Affordable Reconfigurable Tooling (ART) is presented, which uses the robot to reconfigure flexible fixture modules. The ART system can also be rebuilt, which means that the tool is dismantled and reused for a completely different product family (e.g. wings, fins or fuselage sections). This is made possible through a modular framework, i.e. not welded as with conventional tooling, but rather jointed by screws.

Robots, originally developed for the automotive industry, have an accuracy which is ten times less accurate than that required for aerospace applications. To help meet this limitation in the use of robots in aircraft assembly, an additional metrology system, used in the aircraft industry for calibrating assembly tooling, is integrated into the robot controller. The feedback loop enables the robot to be positioned to ±0.05 mm absolute accuracy. This integration is made possible by existing embedded software packages for the robot and the metrology system.

The processes in the system are programmed in a software package with an intuitive user interface in a 3D-environment, normally used for the offline-programming of robots in automotive industry. The planning is intuitive, and an approach towards a process planning abstraction level is presented where processes are defined directly on the coordinate frames constituting the robot trajectories and manual operations. Tolerance on accuracy requirements are dynamically programmed in the same environment. The metrology system, working online with the robot controller, eliminates most of the calibration work required in traditional robot programming. Changes in the operation planning take less than a minute to run physically with the best tolerance.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2005. 183 p.
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 953
National Category
Aerospace Engineering
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-73389 (URN)91-85299-59-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2005-06-17, Sal C3, Hus C, Campus Valla, Linköping, 10:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2012-01-03 Created: 2012-01-02 Last updated: 2012-11-29Bibliographically approved

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