HRC Aircraft Riveting Process

Assembly processes in aircraft production are difficult to automate due to technical risks. Examples of such technical challenges include small batch sizes and large product dimensions as well as limited work space for complex joining processes and organization of the assembly tasks.

A fully automated system can be expensive and requires a large amount of programming knowledge. For these reasons, ZeMA believes a semi-automated approach is the most effective means of success for optimizing aircraft production.

Many methods can be considered semi automation, one of which is Human-Robot-Collaboration. ZeMA will use the example of a riveting process to measure the advantages of Human-Robot-Collaboration systems in aircraft structure assembly.

In the assembly of the aircraft aft section the pressure bulkhead is mounted with a barrel section using hundreds of rivets. This assembly process is a non-ergonomic and burdensome task in which two humans must work cooperatively. The alleviation of such work can be achieved by using a collaborative scheme between operator and robot system. This approach uses dynamic task sharing between the operator and robot based on their skills and the process requirements. This is demonstrated by placing a robot inside section 19 on top of a lifting unit to position the counter holder while the human does the more complex task of inserting the rivet and operating the rivet tool.

Using dynamic task sharing and an intuitive control system, ZeMA aims to assist the operator with a collaborative robot and assistance system to improve the manufacturing quality as well as ergonomics for the human during the overhead riveting process. Interaction between human and machine is made possible by using smart devices such as a smart watch for remote control of the whole station or Mixed Reality glasses for visualization.

The results are part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program at ZeMA and will present needs-based automation shown in the HRC riveting process.