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September 2006 edition

Robots answer the riveting challenges of airframe assembly

By Richard Kleebaur

Despite modern alternatives, the use of rivets for joining aircraft components is still an indispensable standard practice, and will remain so for many years to come.

EADS researchers are investigating ways to advance traditional riveting techniques for use in aircraft assembly. They say robots are expected to achieve greater precision and reduce costs.

The research laboratory for robotic riveting at the EADS Corporate Research Centre in Suresnes, France, develops and optimises automated assembly tools for later use on the production line.

The CRC says that, although new technologies have been developed, airframe assembly work remains highly complex, time-consuming and mostly manual. “Innovations in this area are therefore mainly aimed at increasing automation to shorten lead times, reduce costs and to free workers and technicians from doing repetitive work, so that their skills can be better employed elsewhere,” it adds.

The CRC concludes: “Despite the ever-increasing proportion of composites used in the aerospace industry, assembly by riveting can be expected to remain in use for many years to come, both for metallic and composite parts. Automation has been introduced in this domain to some extent and a number of riveting machines are already in use at EADS and Airbus production sites.”

But the main problems with assembling aerospace structures arise from the need to handle and ....

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