The aerospace industry is constantly evolving, and modern robotics are driving the change. The last few years have seen significant growth in robotics, with much of it concentrating on industrial applications for the aerospace manufacturing process.
These four common robotic applications hint at the exciting direction the industry is heading in.
A key trend heating up the aerospace industry over the last handful of years has been automation. It’s making waves in essentially every industry but is uniquely useful in aerospace. For instance, automated welding is making new aircrafts safer while also speeding up the manufacturing process and lowering costs.
Welding can be dangerous for employees, even skilled ones. Welders face numerous risks that can lead to severe injuries, such as burns, electric shock, fumes, and even radiation. Minimizing the danger that people are exposed to is one of the most common goals of automation, which is why welding is taking off.
Welding robots are becoming increasingly popular, especially for materials such as titanium or nickel-alloy, which require very precise work. Robots can do this while also increasing productivity with their capability to complete the same process countless times without degrading quality. This improves the structural integrity of new product, speeds up the manufacturing process and increases employee safety at the assembly sites.
Sealing, Coating, and Painting
When it comes to productivity, eliminating repetitive, time-consuming processes is key to success. That’s why many aerospace companies are implementing robotics to take care of their sealing, painting and coating processes. With increasing demand for new aircraft due to the industry’s private jet shortage, productivity is more important than ever. Robotics for automating manufacturing is providing a much-needed solution.
While critical for quality and safety, the sealing, painting and coating processes are excessively time-consuming for human employees to complete. That’s largely due to the scale of the parts they are working with. Robotics frees up people to work on more important tasks. A sealing and coating robot can be programmed to repeat the same seals time and again as parts move down the assembly line, each time with consistent quality. These lengthy processes can even be done during off-peak hours, like overnight, when people don’t normally want to work.
Fastening and Drilling
Arguably the most popular use of robotics in the aerospace industry has been for the drilling and fastening process. This is a tedious, lengthy job for assembly line employees, requiring special equipment and several steps to complete correctly. A robot can streamline all that, giving a significant boost to the manufacturing timeline. Robotics can take care of the entire process, from pilot hole drilling to reaming, even with special materials like titanium.
Considering the sheer number of holes that need to be drilled in aircraft parts, automating this process is an unprecedented advancement in the industry. It has given many aerospace companies such a desirable advantage that automated drilling and fastening is becoming the new industry standard.
Inspection and Quality Control
Sensor technology has become extremely intelligent over the last several years. From smartphone cameras that can accurately identify faces to infrared sensors that can monitor heart rate, this tech is quickly exceeding the capabilities of human senses.
Many aerospace companies are taking advantage of this technology by increasing the accuracy of their nondestructive testing using sensors. However, robotics can take the speed and accuracy of inspections to a whole new level. They can ensure quality and integrity by carefully and procedurally scanning every square inch of components for cracks and other errors.
Sensors can also be applied to scanning for other structural qualities, such as countersink quality and exit burr. Similar to the sealing, painting and coating process, robotic systems that can do inspection scans autonomously could be programmed to run during nonpeak hours. That way, human employees can maximize their daily schedules for addressing any issues the inspections robots identify.
Robotics in the Aerospace Sector
The future of aerospace robotics is an exciting one, with massive potential for growth. On the manufacturing side of the industry, fully autonomous assembly lines are likely to appear in the near future. The applications described above hint at this advancement, which would help meet the increasing demand for aircraft. At the end of the day, these applications listed above are only a few of the processes that automation and robotics can help with. Some of our leading manufacturers such as Kassow Robots are excellent choices for collaborative applications such as assembly, machine tending, or dispensing.
If you have an application you would like to talk about, give our team of engineers a call and we'll be happy to take a look.