Affordable Accurate Robot Guidance (AARG)
Agency / Branch:
DOD / USAF
The field of high-precision manufacturing, especially in the aerospace industry, has traditionally required either manual processes or the use of monolithic Cartesian NC-type machines. There are many justifications for the desire to use articulated arm robots to perform these tasks. While recent advances in robot design and self-compensating tool end effectors have mitigated the issue of robot stiffness under load, the accuracy of even enhanced robots typically precludes processes with positional tolerances of better than TP 0.040" - using external metrology to guide the robot more accurately continues to be the most cost-effective avenue to achieving significantly tighter production tolerances. Current metrology systems capable of guiding a robot and holding accuracies of better than TP 0.010" over a typical work cell volume are few. None possesses the requisite speed, accuracy, and cost to warrant their use in most high-precision aerospace applications. The aim of this effort is to demonstrate TRL4 capability of an affordable, accurate, quick, deployable, and modular (distributable) external metrology system that is able to guide multiple articulated arm robots operating in non-confined spaces to a tolerance of TP 0.010". The proposed system is laser-based, and entails a network of beacons and active targets. BENEFIT: In general, the insertion of articulated arm robots into current manual or expensive NC machine tool applications requiring high positional tolerances has many obvious benefits, such as span time reduction; unit recurring flyway (URF) cost reduction; reduced production cell footprint and associated facilities costs; flexibility of system implementation; elimination of ergonomic issues; et al. A metrology system that enables robots to achieve these accuracies could also allow for palletized systems of robots, capable of docking in different work stations, grabbing different end effector tools, and performing different tasks. The metrology system would allow for the coordinate system of the palletized robot to be related to the coordinate system of the tooling/part of the station in which it docks. Particularly with respect to aerospace assembly, this would decrease idle time of equipment dedicated to a single process and station. Specific to this solicitation, which may address the production needs of Lockheed Martin Aerospace''s Right- and Left-Hand F-35 Upper Wingbox stations (J461/2 -7 autodrill), the resulting production solution will reduce span time, overall station cost, provide 100% inspection capability of c''sink/holes, and be able to attain the tolerances necessary for Interchangeable and Replaceable panels. Even though span time reduction is not so critical here since all stations on the assembly line advance at the same time, lower cycle time would allow more margin for error if maintenance/servicing of the station is required. Compared to competing metrology systems, the proposed system will be at least as cost-effective, possess the ability to ''''see'''' the entire work volume without needing to be actuated, be at least as accurate as a laser tracker system (currently the highest accuracy, multi-axis, large scale volume metrology device), be several times quicker at generating the pose (position, orientation) of the robot''''s end effector compared to a laser tracker, and have components (beacons, active targets) that can be swapped-out and re-calibrated in-situ should hardware fail.
Small Business Information at Submission:
Technical Director, Aerospace
VARIATION REDUCTION SOLUTIONS, INC.
46999 Five Mile Road Plymouth, MI 48170
Number of Employees: