Automation has reached a whole new level in every sector and workplace. Companies realized that with a touch of robotics they can free their workers from repetitive tasks and allow them to step on when things go sideways. The aerospace industry is not untouched by automation.
The service robotics in the aerospace industry is currently experiencing a perfect storm of market readiness, maturity of technology, customer awareness, and availability. More and more companies have been investing in service robotic to improve productivity, the efficiency of operation, and enhance flexibility. The recent boom in venture-funded robotics companies that are introducing novel technologies that can perform specific tasks very wells.
According to , the global aerospace service robotics market is driven by the rise in demand for unmanned aerial vehicles and an increase in the use of robotics in several processes such as production and aircraft orders backlog. The advent of automation in the aerospace industry is expected to open new opportunities in the coming years. From production processes to fabrication jobs, service robotics can perform several jobs. Moreover, service robotics is now used to inspect aircraft, which is a time-intensive process due to the strict standards of the aerospace industry.
The prime challenge that the aerospace industry offers is a large size and weight of aircraft. Thus, service robotics must be able to position heavy and large components during the assembly of wings and fuselage. With the help of automation, several largest and heaviest parts can be moved around on automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and robots are moved into place to get to work. This way, service robotics becomes scalable in handling higher loads and manipulate heavy aircraft components.
Drilling and fastening of countless rivets in aircraft is another area where service robotics are proven to be beneficial. Thanks to advancements in robotics, new end effectors are designed to switch drills and fasteners according to their size and hole required. Moreover, advanced systems can let two separate robots work simultaneously, which saves production time.
To perform a non-destructive inspection (NDI) manually is a challenge as it includes detecting defects in composite components without compromising the integrity of parts. On the other hand, service robotics could perform ultrasonic NDI as they are designed for utmost accuracy and repeatability to eliminate the need for manual inspection. By leveraging advanced manufacturing technology, automation can boost productivity through remote inspection and detailed reporting.
The aerospace industry is filled with repetitive jobs that may involve a hazardous environment. For instance, painting. With the use of service robots for painting as it does not require large work envelopes and scaffolding. Since the airframes are massive in size, multiple robots can be used for finishing all tasks with utmost efficiency. For inspection as well, humans can rely on robots. Robots with their machine vision can look for cracks or de-lamination of composites far better than humans and ensure rivets through ultrasonic imaging methods, which are nondestructive and saves a huge amount of money. Apart from this, service robotics can be used for automated fiber placement of composite fuselages. As accuracy and quality are essential while laying carbon fiber strips, robots can perform a better job without human intervention and precise fiber cutting and placement.
Needless to say, robots can perform repetitive work without fatigue and can perform those tasks that may cause injury to humans, which costs the company in terms of labor loss and production time loss. The installation of thousands of rivets is one of the most repetitive jobs in the aerospace industry that is usually done by a two-person team. This task put tremendous pressure on the shoulders, arms, back, and elbows. However, instead of humans, robots can put themselves through hazardous labor such as surface paint removal, which can cause humans their lives by inhalation of toxic chemicals. Moreover, if humans are removed from such environments, they can work in a safer workspace without hampering the production and maintenance processes.
Thanks to developments in torque sensors and machine vision, robots are significantly improved in terms of intelligence and accuracy. The data collected by cameras and sensors can be interpreted by artificial intelligence. AI can let robots carry out their jobs that are complex for humans and hazardous as well. Moreover, operators can spend less time in programming and improving robots to perform their tasks.
Automation has offered a new tool for aerospace manufacturers to overcome the barriers of manual labor from designing to inspection and testing of new aircraft. With such advancements and innovation, service robotics can restructure the multi-process areas in the aerospace industry and reduce costs, protect workers, and decrease the time of production.
Artificial intelligence has now widely used for analytical purposes, but the use of AI for the development of toolchains and methodologies for complicated operations is a whole new era. The majority of R&D challenges have been a result of inefficient supply chain and cost of overruns. Many market players have been struggling with supply chain problems and a lack of control in delivery and quality assurance. The solution lies with automation and the use of general-purpose robotics and collaborative robots (cobots) that can work alongside humans on both factory level and production lines. Cobots offer automation at an affordable price due to the lack of retooling and manufacturing programs. Programming of these cobots can be delegated to artificial intelligence. The use of traditional programming could be expensive compared to the use of AI as it can program countless tasks simultaneously at a larger scale and lower costs, which can fit in constraints of the aerospace industry.
The collaboration of AI and service robotics could open new opportunities in the production of aircraft where workers would take care of programming if required and inspection of finished components. The repetitive jobs can be delegated to robots which minimize the overall cost of the aircraft and minimizes labor losses and losses due to reruns.
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