Emerging Aerospace Robotics and Automation Technology

aerospace robotics and automationThe aerospace industry includes some of the most demanding robotic applications in manufacturing today. The easiest tasks for robots are high-volume, simple and repeatable tasks where their uptime is the major source of productivity.

In the aerospace industry, robots are often faced with quite the opposite – extremely large, high-value parts that demand accuracy, flexibility and superior performance from a robot. This is exemplified by the Aquarese system from Shape Technologies Group and Flow International Corporation.

Aerospace Robotics Applications – The Future of Waterjet Cutting

The Aquarese system – specifically designed to replace CNC machines that can cost 3 or 4 times as much – is the only waterjet cutting system capable of achieving 94,000 psi (6,500 bar). With this system, a thin stream of water can cut through 8 inches of titanium with ease.

The Aquarese system produces no heat-affected zone (HAZ) or thermal fatigue – which is a major advantage over laser and plasma cutting in itself – and there is no mechanical stress on the part so only light fixturing is required.

The system is highly flexible too. One day, the Aquarese can cut through thick metals with a high degree of accuracy, and the next, it can be used to cut through foam with the same degree of accuracy.

The robot in this waterjet application plays a major role in this innovative, disruptive aerospace technology. The robot is from Swiss-based Stäubli Corporation. It’s a high-payload 100kg model built precisely for ultra high-pressure waterjet applications.

The Stäubli robot features superior rigidity, which is a critical feature for waterjet applications, so the system is as accurate as possible. While this robotic arm is an industry-leading solution for waterjet cutting, research still continues into more rigid robotic arms.

The recently opened Boeing Manufacturing Development Center (BMDC), on the campus of Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, is pioneering new ways to maximize rigidity and accuracy in six-axis robotic arms.

While the BMDC has produced some fascinating results, research continues across the globe to advance robotic capabilities, especially in the aerospace sector where demands placed on robots are extremely high.

The Aquarese system featuring the Stäubli robot is one of the most innovative and advanced robotic systems in the aerospace sector, but far from the only technology that pushes the limits of robotic capabilities.