Snake-arm robots are flexible in more ways than one and their versatility allows them to be useful in a wide range of situations. OC Robotics has been working with Airbus UK to develop a flexible robot system capable of conducting a variety of low access assembly tasks.
OC Robotics has designed a prototype (left) which can demonstrate all the required tasks inside a mock-up of a rib bay. This shows an Explorer snake-arm robot mounted on a Kuka industrial robot. The demonstrator snake-arm has 10 segments, is 1800mm in length and 90mm in diameter. The hollow bore is 15mm. The complete system has 27 degrees of freedom. This gives the arm the flexibility to 'follow its nose' into the rib bay.
OC Robotics has developed proprietary software to enable offline programming linking to digitial manufacturing software such as Delmia v5. The snake-arm robot can follow a path into the wing-box, either by joystick control or from a pre-determined library of paths. The arm can then move in 'Cartesian mode' either by joystick control or automatically using visual servoing to ensure it is correctly aligned before beginning each task. When applying sealant, a camera on the toolpiece tracks the line of the seam.