“To automate processes in the final assembly of aircraft, innovative fastening concepts optimised for automation are necessary,” notes Christian Hartwig, coordinator of the EU-funded CALITO project. “For cabin assembly, no such solutions exist for automation at this time.” The current installation process for sidewall panels is carried out by workers in a single-aisle fuselage. All sidewall panels are labelled and mounted in random order with frame numbers. Currently, installation of linings and hatracks (overhead storage areas) is one of the last phases in the entire aircraft manufacturing cycle. The components have to be transported manually through an aircraft’s doors and connected within the fuselage to the aircraft frame.
Incorporating automation in cabin assembly
All assembly processes for lining and hatracks within the fuselage are performed without the assistance of robots. Since the mounting system consists of many brackets, several sections must be mounted before aircraft construction. During installation, several time-consuming steps are required to install linings, hatracks and mounting system brackets. Project coordinator SFS intec introduced a redesign to support fully automated cabin and cargo installation based on existing cabin and cargo interior parts and connected fastening elements. The developed lining parts (sidewall, cargo hatracks) and the brackets ensure easy handling during installation. A minimal number of bracket variants will simplify the line feeding process, and the configuring and processing of the robot. Throughout all variants, the reference points for configuring the robot will be the same. This was achieved by a modular construction system for the brackets.
Simplifying and reducing installation
The fastening system streamlines a cabin sidewall’s installation. The whole system consists of three components: a rail on the floor, a self-adjusting mounting system on the window, and a light-emitting diode (LED) cover under the hatrack. The latest state-of-the-art LED technology developed by project partner Jetlite optimises light distribution in the cabin and integrates human-centric lighting that increases passenger well being while displaying information like (de)boarding assistance, seat reservation and hatrack filling level. It can be installed in both existing and future aircraft, and it fits all plane sizes. During the initial installation stage, the sidewall is placed in the lower rail and pushed against the window. The self-adjusting fastening system aligns the sidewall to the window funnel. During this process, a lever is automatically actuated to lower the LED cover. By locking the LED cover, the circuit is closed. The solution offers bracketless design and innovative self-adjusting interfaces. Installation is up to five times faster than that needed for Airbus’ conventional manual process. “The reason for this is that no more complex screwing procedures are needed to assemble the lining parts,” explains Hartwig. “Also, the lining parts weigh about 20 % less because they are made of a high-performance foam developed by project partner Solvay.” This will result in lower fuel consumption and less pollution. “CALITO took on two big challenges the aviation industry faces today: customisation and automation, allowing aircraft manufacturers to master both,” concludes Hartwig. “By simplifying the assembly process with a self-adjusting system and reduced interfaces, cabin automation becomes more efficient.”
CALITO, cabin, aircraft, sidewall, lining, hatrack, bracket, fastening, cabin assembly