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Multifunctional automation system for Fuselage Assembly Line

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MultiFAL (Multifunctional automation system for Fuselage Assembly Line)

Reporting period: 2019-03-01 to 2020-02-29

The main objective of the MultiFAL project is to design, develop and construct an automated plant system for joining thermoplastic fuselage shells considering three different design use-cases, taking into account the existing assembly plant system at the topic managers’ facility.

Objectives include reducing the commissioning time of automated plant systems up to 20% by the use of virtual commissioning tools, increasing the level of detail for production steps around 25% by implementing interfaces between plant system and production control.

Additionally, usability and re-utilization of automation systems by the development and implementation of standardized interfaces will be enhanced. In the MultiFAL project, lean development approaches will be combined with agile methodologies to develop not only software modules for the simulation but also for the virtual commissioning of the plant system.
During the first period of MultiFAL project (March 2019 to February 2020) there are two work packages started: the first one for the specifications and the second one for the design of selected components.

The first activities were related to the provision of further information regarding the work environment, the specific robot used, work activities, and a list of specifications such as models of current TM facilities. It was also required the definition of interfaces with TM equipment, inputs of welding solution to be integrated into the use cases. All this information will be used to define the technology solutions to be developed in the next work packages and to develop a Preliminary Specifications document, which will be the baseline for the next works.
Definition of the lower and the upper shells of the aircraft and the parts to be welded (butt straps and frame couplings), their geometry, and main characteristics. Moreover, it has been defined all the auxiliary equipment needed for the shells positions and the welding process. IFAM facilities were also defined in this task.

After this definition phase, the efforts were focused in analyse different shells alignment strategies, the definition of use cases, and the evaluation of different concepts for the automated solution. Different steps were defined during this phase, for example, the strategy alignment before welding and the tooling and shells positioning. In this sense, it is important to note that several partners have to cooperate with the MultiFAL team, i.e. IFAM, the end effector suppliers, and the shells suppliers. Therefore, the final accuracy and quality of the welded fuselage will depend on several sources and will accumulate the position errors, the shape error of the geometry, and other manufacturing tolerances. To overcome these limitations, it is planned the use of a Master Coordinate System, working to define the master reference points to calculate the position errors, analysing the different corrections in shells positioning to be compensated during the loading process.

MultiFAL developed four concepts for the automated solution, creating the 3D models and analysing the strengths and weaknesses in terms of welding, shells positioning, space limitations, compatibility with IFAM facilities, for each one. The main challenge was to present concepts compatible with welding technologies that were not still fixed, for which it was necessary to estimate welding parameters, dimensions, and weights of the welding solutions.

Concept 1 was based on an internal beam with an external positioner. This concept proposed the use of an outer device for positioning combined with an inner device to support the force resulted from the pressure generated during the ultrasonic welding process in the overlap joint.
Concept 2 was a self-support deck that proposes an inner positioning device to place the welding line by pushing from inside of the fuselage when shells are properly pre-positioned. The inner positioning device has the length of the fuselage demonstrator and can be retracted, to allow the shells to be loaded, and extended to place shells edges in the welding position.
Concept 3 was similar to concept 2, but the structure would not be self-supported. Therefore, the deck solution with the inner positioning device had to be placed by a crane during the loading process. The lower shell structure would also support the weight of the deck.
Concept 4 proposes to move the fuselage for welding, using a seven-axis to move the shells instead of the end effector.

The selected concept is the self-support deck, this decision was agreed with IFAM and AIRBUS in a technical workshop. The MultiFAL use cases for the longitudinal joins, need to be addressed in an entire process that is linked with other tasks. The loading process which is a Topic Manager task has several solutions under study. Furthermore, the Topic Manager informs that the welding technologies selected for the use cases were resistance welding for frame couplings, continuous ultrasonic welding for overlap joint, and conduction welding for the butt strap joint. However, no information was provided about the end effector, the welding parameters, or the interface loading capacity. In addition, end effector requirements related to power, cooling, air supply, and fume exhaust lines were not defined
MultiFAL will consider process simulation, automation, plant concepts and virtual commissioning technologies in order to bring both an increase in the assembly process performance and a deep understanding of the relevant factors implementing a full size automated plant following a brownfield approach. Different assembly approaches and joining processes for different use-cases will be considered, taking into account the currently existing double-sided and limited accessibility for full fuselage sections. As a result, MultiFAL will also facilitate the adaptability of both the robotic machinery and a central control system.
Preliminar stress analysis of deck structure
Self-supported deck preliminary design
Evaluated Concepts for MultiFAL automation solution