With thousands of fastener locations that need to be drilled and filled to complete a plane, drilling and fastening remain the largest areas of opportunity for automated robotics applications in aerospace. New developments are also making robots more attractive than ever in the aerospace and defense space—especially improved rigidity and accuracy in the robots themselves.
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The decision to adopt robotic automation for welding cells is getting easier every day. There are any number of manufacturing considerations influencing that decision, including quality, productivity, and consistency of the weld. Today, however, the key driver is the lack of skilled welders available to fill the requirements of shops both large and small.
Until the middle of 2010, first-tier subcontract machinist, JJ Churchill, could produce turbine blades only if they had their fir-tree root-forms preground elsewhere, or if they were subsequently added by another subcontractor. No longer is this the case.
Burrs, sharp edges, and rough surfaces plague even the most precise metal-cutting or forming process. Deburring and finishing can often be treated as the step-child of a manufacturing process, but its importance is growing as tolerances get tighter and precision devices become the norm.
To run factories at optimal efficiency, plant managers need to mine real-time shop-floor operational data as fast as possible, to quickly determine where and when any manufacturing process bottlenecks occur. With today’s shop-floor data management software and related hardware solutions, manufacturers can leverage more key production performance data than ever in order to fine-tune their manufacturing processes.
“We are developing solutions for power workholding such as hydraulic swing clamps and block clamps, because the real estate on a fixture is so valuable,” says Jason Betz, product specialist for Carr Lane Roemheld (St. Louis). “This pushes the use of smaller workholding components as much as possible because the more parts on the fixture the greater the productivity.”
When you walk into the Redeye On Demand facility in Eden Prairie, MN, you enter into one version of the factory of the future. There you will see a bank of 100 high-end Fortus fused-deposition modeling (FDM) machines from Stratasys that provide the capacity to build real, functional parts with production-grade thermoplastics directly from CAD data.
Automation development in the aerospace industry has quickened its pace, with the aviation and defense industries attempting to further automate manufacturing processes to meet growing OEM order backlogs and critical aerospace-defense program deadlines.
Today’s products require high finishes, burr-free edges, freedom from contamination, and often close tolerances. Electropolishing provides all of those conditions and more in a matter of seconds for many metal parts. It is a process that has been used for more than a hundred years. It is widely known and the science is widely discussed, but its ability to run job shop lots and high-precision high-volume parts in the same equipment makes it a bit unique.
Advanced simulation, new toolpath techniques aid programming of highly complex machinery. CAD/CAM software developers continue to refine simulation capabilities and toolpath techniques that enable programming highly complex equipment including multiaxis and multitasking machine tools.