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Evolution of Mobile Robotic Manufacturing Systems at Spirit AeroSystems
ISSN: 2641-9645, e-ISSN: 2641-9645
Published March 07, 2023 by SAE International in United States
Event: 2023 AeroTech
Citation: Richardson, C. and Davis, C., "Evolution of Mobile Robotic Manufacturing Systems at Spirit AeroSystems," SAE Int. J. Adv. & Curr. Prac. in Mobility 5(5):1869-1874, 2023, https://doi.org/10.4271/2023-01-0996.
Efforts toward the mechanization of aircraft manufacturing began as a divided focus between devices like power tools that augment human worker capability and purpose-designed, “monument” automation. While both have benefits and limitations, the capability of modern industrial robots has grown to the point of being able to effectively fill the capability gap between them, offering a third option in the mechanization toolbox. Moreover, increasing computer processing power continues to enable more advanced approaches to perception to inform task planning and execution. Higher performance robots supplemented with greater ability to adapt to various conditions and scenarios have also led to the ability to operate reliably and safely outside traditional fixed-installation, caged work cells. This in turn has made it feasible for robot systems to work in ever more complex environments and applications, including the world of aircraft assembly with its numerous challenges like workpiece scale, precision issues due to compounding tolerance stack-ups, and confined and often crowded spaces – including the potential for interaction with human workers. Mobile industrial robot systems are becoming more common throughout the aerospace industry and the most popular use case is still drilling and fastening. Spirit AeroSystems has been at the forefront of this trend since the early 2000’s in terms of system architecture and configuration, technology testing and maturation, and deployment into production use cases. In conjunction with a number of supplier partners, Spirit has nearly 20 years’ worth of history and lessons learned regarding drilling and fastening processes performed by mobile industrial robotic systems including several new systems across multiple programs and aerostructure configurations.