SnakeJet - Automating the application of aircraft sealant in confined spaces using snake-arm robots


Perhaps surprisingly, the assembly of aircraft has been unable to use automation to increase rate and reduce costs, especially in comparison with the automotive industry. This is due to the low manufacturing volumes and the size of the structures which mitigate against achieving the high manufacturing tolerances and repeatability that are pre-requisites for low cost automation. In practice every aircraft is unique and skilled fitters are required to adapt parts in real time to finalise assembly. If parts are not exactly where they should be any automation must also be able to adapt to the particular circumstances.
This project seeks to address numerous confined space issues by conducting research that will demonstrate movement and new process technologies within a closed structure using a new type of robot, called a snake-arm robot. The system will have to be semiautonomous as it will have to adapt in order to be robust to the expected manufacturing variables.
The spin-off potential is extensive there are myriad confined spaces which are ripe for automation.

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