A robot designed by the Industrial Systems Unit at Fatronik-Tecnalia for the Airbus aeronautics company has been awarded, amongst more than 100 enterprises worldwide, in the prestigious international Strategic Manufacturing Awards 2008, in the category of Innovation.
The machine created by the technological centre – based in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa - and known as Roptalmu, is a lightweight and portable robot the mission of which is to perforate holes in large-scale aeronautic components, such as aircraft wing spars, during their assembly stage. This machine will compete for the prize together with such important enterprises as SAP, Bombardier, HP, Rockwell or Procter & Gamble, within the category of Innovation, and which is sponsored by Microsoft.
The main innovation that the robot from Fatronik-Tecnalia brings is its mobility – enabling the aircraft component being worked on to be fixed to its tool holder while the robot moves over the part. As it is a portable machine, the transfer or removal of large-scale parts and tool holders within the manufacturing plant can be avoided, a great advantage compared to the traditional heavy machines fixed to the floor.
The system developed by the Industrial Systems Unit at Fatronik-Tecnalia is made up of an automatic mobile platform and a 3-axis drilling robot. Once the platform is positioned near the part to be machined, the robot fixes itself to the tool holder of the part to be worked and can automatically move over the whole part. The developed system has been designed in this way so as to be sufficiently flexible and autonomous to be able to adapt itself to a wide-ranging variety of aeronautic components. The robot is capable of drilling materials used regularly in aeronautics, such as aluminium, titanium and carbon fibre.
Apart from its innovative technical characteristics, the jury of the Strategic Manufacturing Awards took into account that the robot considerably enhances productivity, reducing time and costs. Normally, large-scale parts in aeronautics need thousands of drilled holes for their assembly, and traditionally these are undertaken manually or with semiautomatic tools. The new Fatronik-Tecnalia robot manages to do this completely automatically and, moreover, enhance working conditions and safety for employees in the aeronautics industry.
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