Assadi, M., Dobbs, S., Stewart, B., Hollowell, S. et al., "Panel Assembly Line (PAL) for High Production Rates," SAE Int. J. Aerosp. 8(1):104-116, 2015, doi:10.4271/2015-01-2492.
Developing the most advanced wing panel assembly line for very high production rates required an innovative and integrated solution, relying on the latest technologies in the industry.Looking back at over five decades of commercial aircraft assembly, a clear and singular vision of a fully integrated solution was defined for the new panel production line. The execution was to be focused on co-developing the automation, tooling, material handling and facilities while limiting the number of parties involved. Using the latest technologies in all these areas also required a development plan, which included pre-qualification at all stages of the system development.Planning this large scale project included goals not only for the final solution but for the development and implementation stages as well.The results: Design/build philosophy reduced project time and the number of teams involved. This allowed for easier communication and extended development time well into the project.All design teams (machine, tooling, automation, controls) collocated and worked together on integration during all stages of development and implementation for the highest level of integration.Innovative integration of the tooling and the automated equipment evolved throughout project with the teams working as one group.Latest fastening technology using all electric, ball-screw squeeze riveting was developed for high-speed and robust automated fastening.Latest mobilization technology was used to make the automated fastening machines interchangeable to reduce MTTR and to enable more PPM activities offline without affecting production.More automation was also introduced for tool changing and to the material handling systems for more consistent processing and to reduce operator intervention.All systems were developed together for full integration and to enable more safety interlocks and HMI for simplified operation.A 30 month schedule for the complete large scale assembly line was maintained to support the new aircraft launch schedule.The final solution was a coherent, streamlined and efficient assembly line capable of very high aircraft production rates (Figure 1).Figure 1PAL, automation cell, Line 4, Position 1 (L4P1)