The aerospace industry has become a hub of automation innovation. With such high value production, as well as the enormous backlog of orders, there’s major potential for industrial robots to significantly cut operating costs for aerospace manufacturers. For an industry that’s historically taken a conservative approach to altering their production processes, the aerospace industry is adopting robotic applications and automation at a rapid pace.
Most Common Robotic Applications in the Aerospace Industry Today
Industrial robotics technology has proliferated in the aerospace industry, and a few key robotic applications have stood out as the most profitable and the most prevalent.
1. Non-Destructive Testing and Inspection
There is no room for failure in aerospace manufacturing. Tolerances are tight and inspections play a critical role in producing a reliable product. Robotic ultrasonic inspection is one of the most common types of robotic inspection applications used in aerospace today, especially for the detection of faults in irregularly shaped composite components.
2. Robotic Drilling and Fastening
Many aerospace production processes require hundreds or thousands of holes to be drilled – the superior speed and accuracy of robots makes them a perfect fit for drilling and fastening applications. For pilot hole drilling, final size drilling and reaming, industrial robots have provided major productivity gains for manufacturers.
3. Robotic Welding
For welding exotic metals like Titanium or Nickel-Alloy in motors, industrial robots provide the repeatability and accuracy required for safety and quality. Composite parts have become popular in aerospace, but there’s still a widespread need for precision welding in motors, turbines and other metal parts.
4. Robotic Sealing and Dispensing
Sealing and dispensing applications in aerospace were traditionally a difficult and slow process, especially for extremely large parts. Robots can be designed to cover distances of 40 feet or more much quicker than a manual operator. Also, their accuracy reduces the amount of sealant wasted in production.
5. Automated Fiber Placement
Automated fiber placement (AFP) is a process where industrial robots lay one or more layers of carbon-fiber tape onto a mold to create a composite part. These composite parts have become widely popular in the aerospace industry due to their lightweight and durability. Likewise, the use of industrial robots for AFP has grown in step.
These robotic applications are some of the most common types found in the aerospace industry. While there are certainly many other industrial robots used in aerospace manufacturing, the 5 listed above are the most widely used.
To learn more about industrial robots in aerospace applications, read our aerospace and aircraft case studies on non-destructive testing and inspection.