Universal Robots Helps in Automating the Aerospace industry

Collaborative robots from Universal Robots are playing an important role in aerospace applications, from the construction of aircraft engines as well as performing tasks like drilling and painting of airframes.  Due to the robots’ reliability, capability, and precision, their popularity in the aerospace industry continues to grow.

Collaborative Robots use in the Aerospace Sector

The robots also known as cobots are often used in aerospace applications which involve drilling holes into components. Thousands of holes might need to be drilled into a fuselage and since the job ought to be precise, the cobots are a perfect choice for consistent and speedy results as they are equipped with the necessary vision accessories to locate where it needs to drill on the airframe.

Not only is the cobot’s work more precise, but cost-effective as well. Drilling costs are actually minimized when using a robot. Additionally, they also save time since cobot can drill a hole in a single step, whereas it might have taken a human counterpart several steps to make the same drill.

Painting is another common task in the aerospace manufacturing sector for the robots from Universal Robots. Cobot do not require scaffolding, and instead, with a large work envelope it can expand and paint the large part itself.  Since the airframes are large, multiple robot arms are used to achieve ultimate efficiency in all tasks. Applying secondary encoders gives the operator more control over the robot, therefore achieving a higher rate of accuracy on the massive components.

Collaborative robots are also very useful when it comes to inspecting the airframes and aircraft before flying. The cobots look for cracks or de-lamination of composites, and ensure all rivets are intact through ultrasonic and imaging methods, which are non-destructive.

Cobots can also be used for automated fiber placement of composite fuselages. During the process of laying carbon fiber strips, accuracy and quality is very crucial. The robots help eliminate errors made by precise fiber cutting and placement. They also help reduce the weight of the airplane by being so precise and light.

A Case Study of Cobot Use in Aerospace Tasks

Whippany Actuation Systems

Whippany Actuations Systems makes electro-mechanical actuation systems for the aerospace and defense industries. The company needed to increase their production quickly and also preferred to manufacture in-house.

The New Jersey based manufacturer started looking for a robot that could tend their CNC machine. Having a robot that works unattended overnight would increase production capacity well enough to meet the increased demand.

The desired automation also needed to handle parts of various sizes so the ability to integrate with customized adaptive grippers, having both robot and gripper communicate with the CNC machine was important.

The Solution

Fortunately, the Whippany’s manager of manufacturing turned to Universal Robot after learning that the robots could be implemented and programmed easily and did not require the traditional guarding and safety that other robots required.

The integration of the robot to the CNC was very smooth since Whippany had an outside integrator come in and help wire the discrete I/O to the controller of the gear shaper and the collaborative robot.

Once everything was plugged in, they labeled all I/O points and mapped everything out. The system’s control program now allows users to monitor the specific I/O tied to events happening on the machine from doors opening and closing of the unit being loaded.

The Cobots Integration

Integrating a Robotic gripper into a robot from Universal Robot is as easy as plugging in a USB and loading the drivers; the gripper itself is also very easy to use.

With Whippany’s CNC machines running two additional and unattended shifts, the company’s goal of increased production capacity has been achieved.

The company now expects to achieve ROI on the robot in a less than a year. Collaborative robots has not just made Whippany more competitive, the company is currently considering the possibility of in-sourcing more work because of its enhanced production capacity.

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