Design News, April 2013

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Automation & Control Robotic Advances in Aerospace Manufacturing The unique demands of aerospace and defense manufacturing are stretching robotic system suppliers to add advanced control functions to keep up the pace of innovation. By Al presher, Contributing Editor Source: FANUC Robotics T he overall size and complexity of aerospace large parts. Work cells can be 30 ft to 40 ft long and sevmanufacturing processes is challenging induseral stories high, hardly conducive to a robotic workspace, trial robot makers to respond with new which is normally very small. The result is that some of the solutions that integrate the precision of CNC robots are being put on rails or implemented using gantechnology, adaptive control, and intelligent use of feedback tries, which adds additional elements of complexity to the such as force sensors and secondary encoders. Added consystems especially if there is a high requirement for system trol sophistication is making it possible not only to address accuracy. difficult-to-automate manual processes, but also to achieve "Supporting this manufacturing growth is driving the accuracies and repeatability not normally associated with need for advanced robotic solutions but another aspect is industrial robots. the materials being used," Blanchette said. "To assemble a "A major development with robotic systems, because of car using a carbon fiber composite material for an automothe unique requirements posed by the aerospace industry, is tive body panel, for example, the panels are put together but adding new robotic elements to support advanced manufac- normally there isn't a need to inspect them. No one will die turing needs," Chris Blanchette, national account manager in a crash from a crack in a body panel. It's a quality defect, for FANUC Robotnot a safety defect." ics America, said in an But if there is a crack interview. "This includes in an airplane panel, high accuracy tools using people can die as a result. secondary encoders and So even if the automotive robotic mechanical arms manufacturers are migratthat are more rigid, so ing toward using the same they can maintain accumaterials and processes, racy while exerting force the requirements are difagainst the part and interferent. In aerospace, there faces to vision systems, is a need for 100 percent making it possible to get inspection, so there is data and create a more a new application that adaptive process." robots haven't really done One of the fundamenbefore. tal reasons that aerospace The requirements of the manufacturing is requiraviation world are driving ing advanced robotic the technology develA challenge with robots in aerospace manufacturing applications is the applications is an inherent need to work with very large parts. Robotic work cells can be up to 30 ft opments and trends of to 40 ft long and several stories high. need to work with very new robotic applications. Design News | April 2013 | www.d esign n –42–

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