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How to Automate Successful Manual Finishing Steps by Increasing Process Safety, Quality and Reduce Health Issues
Manual operation is still very common in the industry when it comes to material removal. Often those manufacturing steps are hated but critical steps in manufactures process flow. Just for the simple fact that they are labor-intensive, health-endangering, or repetitive work steps – such as sanding or grinding – which are demanding on the employees. Nevertheless, often those critical tasks define repeatability and quality of your products. The automation of these work steps gives you the significant competitive advantage needed in a global market. Labor shortage in general or the simple fact that there is nothing as a finishing school, propels the demand of installing robots for those 3D (dirty, dusty, dangerous) jobs. No matter which fact or multiple reasons force manufactures to automate their applications, the right path is critical.
From knowing the limitations of technologies, to defining the scope, choosing a robot, the right tool, process to which abrasive or media change to use puts companies in every size for substantial burdens. Mistakes in this process can result in high costs to a non-functional cell. In form of best practice cases, we will demonstrate those challenging robotics applications by using different robotics technologies and compare the suitability on different industry tasks. The focus will be on the applications on aerospace parts, like composite or carbon parts – small parts to complete fuselages on substrate, primer, clear coat, or paint removal as well as deburring and turbine blade operations.
Satyandra Gupta, PhD, FSME
University of Southern California - Los Angeles, CA
Surface finishing represents a large portion of manufacturing operations. Sanding is a widely used surface finishing process during manufacturing of parts made from metal and composite. Sanding is an ergonomically challenging operation. Traditionally robots are used only on mass production applications. The manual programming of robots is economically not viable in high-mix applications; therefore, sanding has remained a manual operation. The advent of human-safe robots is enabling robots to collaborate with humans on ergonomically challenging tasks and amplify human productivity. This enables robots to perform a large fraction of sanding operation and only requires humans to perform the final touch-ups. The availability of 3D vision and force sensors enables robots to operate without custom fixtures and accommodate part and fixture variability. These recent advances in robotics make it possible for robots to be used in high-mix sanding applications. This presentation will describe artificial intelligence technology to enable robotic assistants to program themselves from the high-level task descriptions and utilize sensor data to adapt the programs to deliver efficient and safe operational performance. The robotic sanding solution ensures quality consistency, increases productivity, and enables scalability in production for the manufacturers.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
The legacy process for wet installing Blind Fasteners on Aircraft is a complex and labor-intensive operation that requires operators to manually prepare the surface prior to installation. Proper fastener surface preparation is critical to the performance of sealants applied during installation and is a repetitive task that increases aircraft manufacturing times. The Automated Blind Fastener Program was funded by the Office of Naval Research, developed in conjunction with Advanced Technology International, and executed by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics to demonstrate the various methods of automating surface preparation processes prior to installation to reduce touch labor and increase preparation repeatability. Additionally, an automated blind fastener preparation solution enables future technology insertion for automated blind fastener installation which supports production “Just in Time” initiatives to autonomously clean, kit, and deliver fasteners to build stations throughout the factory.
This presentation will describe how contact and non-contact cleaning methodologies were evaluated and down-selected for automation in production. An in-depth look will be discussed at how the testing results were evaluated using quantitative data such as pushout and torque testing and qualitative data to examine sample failure modes. The final engineering recommendation will be described and a path forward for how Lockheed Martin Aeronautics will pursue automated blind fastener preparation and kitting.
Aerospace Program Manager
All aerospace companies continue to struggle to successfully implement automation. The product design, manufacturing requirements, product certifications, and product complexity make automation significantly more difficult that industries like automotive. There is many new technologies and capabilities that are not commonly known throughout aerospace that can solve many of the difficulties of the past. This presentation will show many different real examples of automation applicable to aerospace processes and provide updates on new developments that further ease the implementation of advanced automation for some of aerospace’s most difficult processes. The presentation will also show the many benefits of collaborative robotics and collaborative applications and how a collaborative solution can be properly implemented for a successful manufacturing process. In addition to showing real solutions and new technology developments, this presentation will describe the key project concepts common to all successful automation projects and describe how to avoid the common mistakes that cause automation to fail.
Regional Head of Advanced Robotic Applications
The manufacturing of large, heavy parts, sometimes in small batches, has always been challenging, even with automation. Over the last decade, however, new, more flexible automation technology has been developed to enable more companies to automate their production. One such solution is the mobile robot, platforms with or without robots that are capable of transporting, processing, and measuring heavy, big parts. It is now possible to precisely maneuver mobile platforms, carrying up to 100 tons of payload. These mobile robots make it possible to process or check the quality of large parts without the need for big, complex installations.
The presentation will show how mobile platforms and robots can be used to increase the flexibility of automation projects in the manufacturing environment. Several application examples will be presented to illustrate the implementation of these technologies with focus on large and heavy part production.
WR-ALC Robotics and Automation Subject Matter Expert, Air Force
Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex
The use of specialized, custom, “bolted down” equipment, designed for specific workloads, monopolizes valuable production floor space and hampers our ability to be agile. The utilization of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) industrial robots, mobilized and armed with COTS supporting hardware, artificial intelligence/machine learning software, model-based manufacturing capabilities, and simplified operator interfaces is a huge step toward “Creating an Agile Factory Floor”. This technology enables organizations to respond quickly to the ever-changing warfighter needs. This presentation will describe and highlight the lessons learned, successes achieved, and potential future applications through the examples of the current installation and operation of two mobile robots deployed at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex. These robotic systems are designed to be reconfigurable for future workloads, weapon systems, applications, capabilities, and even duty stations with little or no additional investment. This novel approach improves readiness with robotic systems that can be maintained and serviced organically, while merging the features and capabilities typically only found in one-off, custom equipment, with the agility and flexibility required to meet the on-going needs of the warfighter. The mobile nature of these systems can cut installation cost by 80% or more while shrinking installation schedules from months to days or even hours.
Applications Engineer Staff
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
This presentation will walk through how an automated system was designed for the F-35 production line. It will address the methods and tools used such as requirements development, feasibility studies, risk management, and simulation. Components of the system will be covered at a high level including the end effector, tool assemblies, quality control, and part fixturing. The presentation will also provide insight into the challenges faced during design and integration of this system and other automation systems, and how they were overcome. Additionally, there will be lessons learned from these robotic drilling projects, the importance of sound project management, and accounting for the external systems when integrating into an existing production line.
Senior Applications Engineer
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
There are multiple coatings applied to the F-35, and achieving the correct thickness is not always possible with the robotic spray process simply due to the complex contour, which can be rather severe in places, and the paint plume being sprayed. To achieve a target thickness, an operator must measure the thickness at several discreet points, then sand or add material as needed. The manual measurement process requires a stencil to be placed on the aircraft to identify the measurement points, and can be prone to spot sanding, leading to an out-of-tolerance coating. A robotic inspection system was developed to address this problem by robotically scanning the surface of the aircraft with a metrology device, then projecting a visual aid which guides the operator to where sanding or adding material is needed. The system is comprised of a sensor and projector which are attached to a collaborative robotic arm, all of which is mounted on an Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR). The AMR drives the system into place in front of the desired inspection area. From there, the system scans the surface of the aircraft to measure thicknesses. The results of the inspection are then optically projected onto the surface so the operator can work the coating and rescan zones as needed.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Ultra-high precision predictive assembly of composite parts is vital for large-scale aircraft production. The current practice of composite fuselage shape control is low efficient, non-optimal and experience dependent. We propose a machine learning based ultra-high precision quality control technique that can improve the quality and reduce the flow time. The objective is accomplished by (i) building a digital twin platform, validated by experimental data; (ii) developing a surrogate model for predictive analysis; (iii) conducting multivariable optimization to determine the optimal control of actuators. In the case study, we show that the proposed technique can achieve satisfactory prediction performance and that the automated quality control system can significantly reduce the assembly time with improved dimensional quality. This research has obtained several best paper awards. We appreciate the support from National Science Foundation and DOD MEEP program.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics spends significant time and effort every year developing technologies for their manufacturing processes. These technology areas include advanced surface preparation, metrology and inspection solutions, additive manufacturing, and coatings removal. These improvements reduce cost, save time, and increase quality for mechanics throughout the production line. Many of these same technologies are now being applied for Sustainment applications to improve aircraft readiness. By strategically adapting production methods to depot and flight line environments, Lockheed Martin can collaborate with Field Service Engineers and Government customers and advance the state of the art. The Lockheed Martin Manufacturing Technology team is coordinating with various depots and bases to demonstrate these new pieces of equipment to get feedback and start the process of bringing Sustainment up to the speed of Production. Engagements encompass many aircraft platforms including C-130, C-5, F-35, F-22, F-16, and U-2, each presenting their own unique challenges and required adaptations. Current technologies under evaluation and development include the Gap Gun for gap and mismatch measurement, a custom rotary abrasion tool for surface preparation, and custom templates for locating hidden fasteners.
© Lockheed Martin Corporation 2021