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Human-centred robotics technology to better assemble plane interiors

With assistance from robots, humans who operate in aircraft interiors can boost productivity and improve ergonomics. To resourcefully assemble aircraft interiors, an EU initiative has introduced advanced human-robot collaborative solutions that put worker needs at the centre.

Transport and Mobility
Industrial Technologies

The EU-funded EURECA project has delivered several technological devices and frameworks for teaming up with operators in a human-centred assistive environment. Specifically, it focused on the design and production of three novel prototypes for logistics, assembly of lightweight parts (under 14 kg), and heavy and bulky objects (over 20 kg). “These prototypes will allow robots and human operators to cooperate smoothly, while addressing all the most important assembly scenarios in aircraft interior assembly,” comments coordinator Nicola Pedrocchi.

New paradigm shift for collaborative robots

The first prototype was designed to achieve a step change in logistics performance. The innovative automated guided vehicle (AGV) includes mechanisms to reduce floor pressure and achieve outstanding localisation performance without any external reference. The second prototype is a cutting-edge robotic system that integrates all the most advanced technologies for manipulating and assembling lightweight yet bulky objects like panels. The last prototype is a novel empowering robot customised for task specifications, for a sea change in the mobile manipulation of heavy and very large objects. The solutions address both the working conditions and management of the cabin-cargo installation process. These include limited manoeuvring space and limited weight allowed on the cabin floor, as well as reduction in lead time and recurring costs. The robots can be tailored to and customised according to specifications. “The EURECA approach can be disruptive in many application scenarios where the assembly of bulky and heavy objects is still performed manually, like in the assembly of trains and trucks,” notes Pedrocchi. “What’s more, these new concepts for the high-accuracy positioning of the AGV without any external system will be extremely useful in many logistics situations.” In addition, applications can be dealt with without delay by exploiting free and open-source software. The EURECA team developed a new library of innovative software packages. This huge repository can be used by a large number of robot system integrators across Europe in many different application scenarios.

Enhancing human-robot cooperation in all processes

EURECA only exploits insight information from sensors mounted on the robotic system without any external sensors. Thanks to this approach, standard working environments aren’t changed. The developed devices can also be used in typical manufacturing plants without modifying or retrofitting layouts. There are several benefits for aircraft manufacturers as well. Since operator load is reduced, the proposed assembly operation can be reclassified. Extensive risk analysis demonstrates that the proposed set-up is compatible with safety standards and can be certified. “EURECA technologies demonstrate that the collaboration between humans and robots can tackle the most important challenges in assembling bulky objects in completely unstructured environments,” concludes Pedrocchi. “The development of robotics solutions enhances workplace ergonomics, increases the usability level of assembly actions, and digitalises procedures with logs and visuals to prevent errors through dedicated devices.”

Keywords

EURECA, robot, assembly, aircraft, aircraft interior, logistics, robotics, ergonomics, cabin

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