CMS

Assembly Line

High-rate, automated aerospace RTM line delivers next-gen spoilers

📅 Date:

🏭 Vertical: Aerospace

🏢 Organizations: Spirit AeroSystems, Airbus, ThyssenKrupp, ABB, Pinette Emidecau Industries, Coexpair, Hexcel, CMS, Stäubli, Ultrasonic Sciences


Spirit’s assessment, which included composite and metallic options, agreed with the benchmarks established by Airbus. RTM of epoxy in carbon fiber meets all of the spoiler’s requirements, including — critically — cost. However, it is not production cost, says Pinner, but system cost, which Spirit was able to reduce by 30%. “The RTM solution was most cost effective from raw material to assembly onto the wing,” he says. The winning solution also was weight-neutral.

Back on the tables, as plies are cut, the ABB robot places them on a stacking station at the end of the row of tables. Here, a video camera performs a quick inspection of each ply. The plies are then sorted and kitted according to their end use — skins, spars, ribs — and then spot welded together, activating a binder in the NCF. Complete kits are next moved by the ABB robot to a stacking plate, which is, basically, a steel tray. On this tray is a QR code that specifies the type of kit it holds, whether upper skin, lower skin, spar or rib. The QR code is scanned by the robot, which logs the kit with a manufacturing execution system (MES), the software that drives the entire spoiler production line.

The MES is a product of ThyssenKrupp (Essen, Germany), the systems integrator that provided some of the manufacturing hardware and material handling equipment Spirit uses. Boyd says the software is off-the-shelf from ThyssenKrupp, but it’s been customized for the spoiler production line to provide Industry 4.0 capability. The MES was written not just to track material status and manufacturing progress throughout the plant, but to guide and prompt operator activity through every step — when to move material from point to point, when to load machines, when to unload machines, etc. “We don’t want an operator to make a move here unless the MES says to make a move,” Boyd notes. Moreover, he says, MES provides full data traceability, which allows Spirit to capture and see full M&P information, from the raw material as it comes in the door to the finished spoiler as it goes out the door.

Read more at CompositesWorld