Jefferson, T., Crossley, R., Smith, A., and Ratchev, S., "Design of a Reconfigurable Assembly Cell for Multiple Aerostructures," SAE Technical Paper 2016-01-2105, 2016, doi:10.4271/2016-01-2105.
This paper presents novel development of a reconfigurable assembly cell which assembles multiple aerostructure products. Most aerostructure assembly systems are designed to produce one variant only. For multiple variants, each assembly typically has a dedicated assembly cell, despite most assemblies requiring a process of drilling and fastening to similar tolerances. Assembly systems that produce more than one variant do exist but have long changeover or involve extensive retrofitting. Quick assembly of multiple products using one assembly system offers significant cost savings from reductions in capital expenditure and lead time.Recent trends advocate Reconfigurable Assembly Systems (RAS) as a solution; designed to have exactly the functionality necessary to produce a group of similar components. A state-of-the-art review finds significant benefits in deploying RAS for a group of aerostructures variants. What’s more, improvements to robot accuracy and decreasing costs of capital equipment means reconfigurable systems are becoming more economically viable. Designing the part family for commonality and robotic assembly from the outset enables the assembly system to be quickly customised to each variant using modular tooling. A novel design framework is introduced to manage the design complexity and iterations between design and manufacturing. The framework innovation restructures the design process so design and manufacturing teams can collaborate precisely on structural design for assembly, enabling reconfigurability with the use of common assembly processes. The work presents the development of a RAS demonstrator and wingbox which is designed using the framework.