‘Virtual’ Facilities Lie Ahead

By Guy Norris
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
May 06, 2013

Unlike most production sites that assemble today's computer-crafted aircraft, the Airbus “future factory” will itself be the product of cyberspace. Digitally designed and simulated, it will be fully integrated with the same database used to define the aircraft. Based on production-flow principles with feeder lines, the process begins with features being selected from a customer-definition catalog. Parts are delivered to a paperless, “lean hangar” in which assemblies are brought together “just in time” and “just in sequence.” Structures and modules will go beyond today's pre-equipped sections with bracket-free installation. Novel features could include primary structures incorporating integrated raceways for systems, Wi-Fi for cable transmitters, and standard equipping of major components. Assembly workers will use flexible handling devices with radio frequency identification to transfer data and use smart, ergonomic and adaptive tools. Parts will be positioned using laser control, while crawler robots will join skin sections. Digital printing will be used to produce customized electronics while “cobots” will work alongside humans for access to “non-ergonomic” areas. Fuselages, production of which will be almost totally automated, will be joined by robotic systems to wings before final system activation and check out. Aircraft will be completed by passing through a digital paint shop where they will be sprayed by inkjets and covered with a printed radiation-protection shell.


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