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Automated machines in aircraft manufacturing have to date been mostly heavy, tailored entirely to a specific use, and rail-bound. This is inflexible and proves costly, both in terms of money and productivity. The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM, Siemens, and other partners want to provide an alternative solution to this: Their mobile robot can access aircraft components independently and then carry out all the necessary work on these, including measuring, milling, drilling, and joining work. According to Fraunhofer, the machining deviations are 0.2 mm max. This makes their robot the “world’s most accurate six-axis industrial robot on an AGV” (automated guided vehicle).

The collaboration has also enabled Fraunhofer and Siemens to reaffirm their cooperative relationship, which they plan to further build on in the future in other areas, including joint preliminary research and the development of prototypes. In Stade, there’s already a model factory for aircraft assembly , in which processes are implemented both live and on the digital twin. At the end of 2017, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) presented one of the projects underway at the model factory in Stade: DLR scientists were able to demonstrate how two robots working in parallel can potentially halve the production time required to manufacture aircraft wing shells, without colliding. A time-saving of 38% was achieved at the first attempt.