Researchers from the Fraunhofer Project Group Joining and Assembly FFM, which is part of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM have come up with a new approach to assembling aircraft parts.
They will present this concept at the Composites Europe trade fair at Germany. According to this approach, which is very similar to the systems used in the automotive industry, a rolling line will carry the aircraft parts in a pre-defined sequence. As the conveyor line moves, small single armed robots will perform functions such as joining, drilling and milling on the parts.
The team of researchers have developed a component gripper with a body made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP). The gripper will be displayed at the trade fair to be held from September 27 to 29, 2011. The body of the gripper is joined to a row of suction pads which can be adjusted according to the shape of the aircraft. Robots can easily get the gripper into the required position as it weighs less. However there are certain challenges to be faced before developing this system. Each type of aircraft would require a different assembly line and the robots have to be efficient in fitting the components with error tolerance below the accepted level of 0.2 mm. Researchers are addressing this issue by combining latest software with a recognition system with high accuracy levels.
Another issue is that unlike aluminium which has been used for aircrafts, CFRP requires a certain amount of tension for accurate assembly. Robots used in the new assembly approach will be required to measure the exact amount of tension required. The research team is confident that they will be able to overcome these hurdles and set up the initial demo facility by 2014.