Boeing to Use Robots to Assemble 777 Aircraft

By Paul Riegler on 14 July 2014
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Kuka robots at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant

Kuka robots at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant

Boeing announced a major change in how it assembles its largest, twin-engine aircraft.

Utilizing what the Chicago-based plane maker calls Fuselage Automated Upright Build, Boeing will use guided robots to fasten the panels of a plane’s fuselage together.  The robots will drill and fill over 60,000 fasteners.  Currently, that work is done by hand.

The new robot technology has been in development by Boeing since 2012, and the company says it is now in the final stages of testing and production readiness.

The system uses robots in a manner similar to how automakers today use them in production for assembling cars.  Controlled by software, the robot riveters will work inside and outside the fuselage.

Boeing says the new technology will improve employee safety as well as production quality.  According to the company, more than half of all injuries to employees working on 777 aircraft have occurred while fastening the plane’s fuselage together.   The automated system will also reduce the time it takes to assemble the fuselage and improve first-time quality.

The introduction of robot technology marks the first major change to how Boeing assembles fuselages in over half a century.  The new robots are being supplied by Kuka Systems, which also supplies robots to BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen, among others.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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