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August 2007 edition

Automation in the aerospace industry takes a leap forward but still has some way to go

Manually or semi-automatically drilling thousands of holes in large aerostructures and parts such as wing spars, and fettling afterwards, incurs high costs. Faced with making savings and competing against the lower prices of companies in the Far East or southern Asia, aircraft manufacturers in Europe are turning to fully automated solutions. Simulating the manufacture of crucial composite parts is also assisting the adoption of automation. Phil Sholl, md of production engineering specialists AMTRI, explains the issues and trends that lie behind the development of a special purpose machine developed and designed to progress the manufacture of major parts (News: Airframer June).

Compared to the high level of automation in the automotive sector, the aerospace industry still has some way to go. Look at a mass production car body assembly line today and you will see nothing but automated manipulators and spotwelding robots, with no human being in sight. But aircraft makers are introducing new methods, at a pace being accelerated by the rapid adoption of composite materials.

Due to make its first flight next year, the Airbus A400M military transport aircraft is a case in point. The company's Filton plant in the U.K. needed a means to automate and speed the production of leading and trailing edge assemblies for the wings, consistent with the highest possible accuracy and quality. Drilling, countersinking and fettling operations had to be performed on a combination of materials &nd....

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Airbus Defence & Space HQ Airframer
Leica Geosystems AG Laser Measuring Equipment, Precision Measurement Equipment
Hyde Group Ltd Personnel Consultants
BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre Research/Consulting Services
GKN Aerospace - Filton Additive Manufacturing, Aircraft Structural Components, Wings, Wing Flaps, Fuselage Sections, Wing Spars
Innoval Technology Limited Metallurgical Testing, Research/Consulting Services
Solvay Composite Design Consultants, Composite Manufacturing Services, Aramid-reinforced Composites, Vacuum Equipment, Composite Manufacturing Supplies, Tooling, Mould Release Agents, Composite Moulding, Epoxy Resins, Composite Adhesive, Resins, Fibreglass, Prepreg, Carbon-reinforced Composites, Mandrels

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