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Premium AEROTEC produces fuselage section for Airbus with even greater speed, cost-effectiveness and transparency
Premium AEROTEC specializes in the design and production of large aircraft components with complex shapes – such as fuselage section 19 for the Airbus 320 family. In order to increase production output while simultaneously reducing manufacturing costs, Premium AEROTEC is using a KUKA system specially developed for the aerospace sector. As a result, Augsburg is now home to the world’s most modern aircraft assembly line.
The initial situation: Increased quantities at lower costs
Two thirds of all civilian aircraft currently in operation are single-aisle standard fuselage aircraft – and demand is rising. Airbus’ share in this market has also grown continuously since the launch of the single-aisle program. In order to meet this demand, the most important supplier of structural components for the Airbus series programs – Premium AEROTEC – is faced with the challenge of increasing production output considerably, while simultaneously reducing manufacturing costs. It quickly became clear that the goal of supplying up to 575 single-aisle sections annually can only be achieved with automation.
The task: Intelligently networked automation
Specifically, production of Airbus section 19 is to be automated. This section of the fuselage is located between the end of the cabin and the last segment that houses the auxiliary power unit. Unlike the rest of the fuselage, which is conical in shape, section 19, consisting of six partial shells, tapers towards the rear. Its special shape makes assembly of the individual segments more challenging. In the KUKA system, reinforcement elements (stringers), connecting brackets (clips) and edge supports are to be riveted to the outer skin of the partial shells fully automatically. Transportation of the partial shells before and after this production step is also to be carried out automatically. Manual assembly steps are to be networked with intelligent automation solutions.
The solution: Everything from one source with KUKA
The partial shells pass through a production system from KUKA measuring 80 meters in length. In manual and automated steps, they are riveted and pre-assembled to form half-sections. It is possible to produce up to 50 sections per month. Three KUKA KR 1000 titan handling robots and three automatic, all-electric drilling/riveting machines are used. These were entirely implemented by KUKA, partially in cooperation with subcontractors such as the US firm Gemcor.
The team from KUKA – acting here in the role of system integrator – invested a good two years in this project together with Premium AEROTEC and other partners. KUKA played a leading role in the planning and development, manufactured or procured all the required components and system parts, integrated the control systems, coordinated all subsuppliers, and ensured that the system was installed and put into operation on time.
On the way to Industrie 4.0 with transparent production
At the start of the manufacturing sequence, each partial shell is fitted with an RFID chip. On the basis of this chip, the handling robots and riveting machines at the individual stations recognize the component and can change to the corresponding tool, for example. This enables seamless tracking of every component throughout the entire manufacturing process – for transparent production in keeping with the philosophy of Industrie 4.0.
Innovative lightweight component carriers
Until now, modular pallets made of steel and weighing up to 1,000 kilograms were used as component carriers. Together with Premium AEROTEC, KUKA developed a lightweight aluminum gripper for the robots and a component carrier that now only weighs around 400 kilograms including the partial shell. This means that the load can be moved quickly and precisely, thereby considerably reducing manufacturing and assembly costs.
Integration of various controllers
KUKA integrated the Siemens Sinumerik 840D as the higher-level machine controller. KUKA also defined and implemented the interface between the Siemens controller and the KUKA KR C4 robot controller. This means that operators can control all the machines via a single, familiar interface. It makes no difference here whether these are KUKA handling robots or third-party machines, such as the automatic riveting machines from the USA that KUKA has seamlessly integrated into the system. Using KUKA’s own control standard – miKUKA – information is collected, visualized on the line and made available to the customer systems. The robot motion for the drilling/riveting process was programmed entirely offline.
The advantages of the automation solution:
•Shorter waiting times and throughput time
•Reduced logistics requirements
•Transparent production sequences
•More ergonomic manual work steps
•Utmost precision and productivity in conjunction with attractive costs
With the KUKA solution portfolio, combined with our in-depth specialist knowledge in the field of aircraft assembly, we were able to optimize the availability and performance of our production facility.