Design News, April 2013

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path based on feedback is exciting technology," said Kolb. He said Aerobotix performed a test for a company that wanted to abrade the aluminum on a space launch vehicle fuel tank, and they had a big interest in process control. The challenge becomes how to abrade the tank with a ScotchBrite pad mounted on an orbital sanding tool, and maintain control of the process if the tank is not perfectly round or always in the same location as the original program. But if the force sensor can feel the specified load, the robot will seek that load and report on how well it did. Instead of a worker observing the process to make sure the aluminum is abraded properly, it should be possible to develop a solution using a specific speed, step over, and pressure (swapping the pad at a regular interval) to produce a very controllable output from the process. It's very difficult to maintain quality in the process when the part or the tooling is moving around. Drilling and Fastening In drilling and fastening applications, the typical manufacturing process used in the past has required a lot of manual operations and dedicated machine tools that are anchored into the concrete floor and require large amounts of floor space. These applications included assembling a fuselage component, for example, which has ribs covered by the skin that are fastened to the fuselage to provide structural integrity. Currently, it is typically fastened using rivets, which requires a drilling operation through the two materials. Sometimes the materials are multi-stacked, so they can be a combination of composite, aluminum, and titanium stacks. The corrosion-resistant sealer is applied, and then the fastener is inserted and tightened. "With the current approach relying on use of expensive machine tools and manual processes, the goal is to increase drilling and fastening throughput while also reducing costs using robotics," said Blanchette. "Because the application requires a high level of precision and accuracy, industrial robots in the past have provided repeatable operation but not the accuracies required. When the application is drilling thousands of holes on a fuselage component, it's not practical to use the traditional methods of 'teaching' the points. The robot needs to be able to be commanded to go to a point in space, and the robot accurately moves to that location." What the robot companies have been doing is developing high accuracy solutions by adding features and making the robots more accurate themselves. FANUC has a new 700kg payload robot called the M-900iB in a high accuracy, high rigid configuration that is targeting this type of application. Using this extra rigidity, the robot is able to provide contact forces on the part required to effectively perform drilling operations. Design News | april 2013 | w w w. d e s i g n n e w s . c o m –45–

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