AMRC’s Robot Cuts the Cost of Producing Composite Components

A research project to enable robots to accurately machine holes in composite aircraft components, has matured into a production system and is on track to save BAE Systems millions of pounds in capital and operational costs over the coming years.

The robotic countersinking technology was developed through collaborative research, led by the AMRC and involving KUKA Systems UK. This production system has now been installed at BAE Systems in the UK, where it will be used to processes a wide range of composite components for military aircraft.

The robotic countersinking technology includes the use of multiple robots to automatically handle composite components and then countersink high tolerance pre-drilled fastener holes.

Non-contact metrology integrated with the machining robot locates predrilled holes and corrects the robot’s position before countersinking. A separate robot provides support to the component eliminating expensive holding fixtures. The system is controlled via the latest S7 Siemens programmable login controller (PLC) and includes the use of augmented reality to aid component fixturing.

Ben Morgan, head of the AMRC’s Integrated Manufacturing Group, said

The architecture of the system will allow the technology to evolve over time and embrace the ideas behind Industry 4.0. We’re now advancing the development system further, enabling process monitoring and generating ‘Big Data’. Analysis of this data, i.e. ‘Data Mining’ will provide an understanding of quality in process.