Process Dependent Design of (Hybrid) Parallel Kinematic Machines for Aircraft Assembly

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Abstract

Aerospace manufacturers are looking for flexible agile machines for automated aircraft assembly to overcome limitations of current machines, i.e., inflexibility of conventional large expensive dedicated equipments and the low stiffness and accuracy of industrial robots. Recent research shows (Hybrid) Parallel Kinematic Machine ((H)PKM) has the potential to provide the required flexibility, stiffness and accuracy. It is an emerging technology, which has been identified as the key enabler for next generation manufacturing systems, although its development is still in the initial stage. Obviously, various types of H(PKM)s will be needed for different manufacturing processes, and modular design is required for ease of reconfiguration. Therefore the machine design has to be process dependent and driven by real engineering requirements. The travel grant is for visiting the world-leading research Group of Manufacturing Equipments and Systems (GMES) in Tianjin University in China, and working together with Prof. Tian Huang and his research team for one month to explore innovative design method of PKM/HPKMs for next generation manufacturing systems for aircraft assembly. The project will initially focus on aerospace manufacturing, once successful, it will be extended to other manufacturing sectors, such as automotive and transport industries. To contribute to the UK national priority in high value manufacturing, the success of this project will bring a huge impact to the UK economy, where manufacturing accounts for 13% of GDP and more than 50% of exports. The scope of this investigation is as follows.
1) Assessing existing PKM/HPKM performance
2) Categorisation of manufacturing processes for automated aircraft assembly
3) New PKM/HPKM design and development
4) Novel performance indices for design and production
5) Topological and dimensional optimization method
6) Innovative method of productive system integration for aircraft assembly
The main deliverable will be the writing of a post-visit report, which will form the basis for two to three funding applications (at least one for fundamental research and one for applications). Other deliverables will include joint publications and research exchanges in the future.

Planned Impact

With 30% cost saving expected from implementation of next generation machines [A review of international approaches to Manufacturing Research, EPSRC 2011], development of advanced robotics and automation technologies gains its priority in manufacturing research as it will gain UK a competitive edge world-wide. Upon success of this project, the research outcome will have a direct impact to the UK aerospace industry which is the 2nd largest in the world with a turnover of £23.1 billion per annum. Being a transferable technology, the impact of this project will also be extended to other manufacturing sectors. By year 2020, many heavy inflexible machines are to be replaced by the new advanced PKMs for achieving higher productivity with less energy consumption. In 50 years, the design methodology of the PKMs will have been expanded to include all types of knowledge-based machine tools to support the intelligent reconfigurable manufacturing system. All of these will bring a real boost to the UK economy, where manufacturing accounts for 13% of GDP and more than 50% of exports.
The success of this project will urge developments in many research areas (mechanism, robotics, machine tool, cutting tool, cutting processes, production, and environmental conscious manufacturing) and industry sectors (CAD/CAM, machine tool manufacturers, control, machine intelligence, machine user). To enhance the impacts of this visit, the following events have been planned:
1) The research results will be published on QUB website, as with the previous projects.
2) Two seminars will be organized after the visit to disseminate the research outcomes. One on (H)PKM frontiers will be organized through NIACE (Northern Ireland Advanced Composites & Engineering) RTC Centre in September 2012. The target audience will be from manufacturing industry, including the investigator's current industrial partners (e.g. Bombardier Aerospace Shorts, Airbus UK, Wright bus, Thales and Michelin and Gudel) and relevnt machine tool manufacturers and users. The event will be advertised in Knowledge Transfer Network and the British Automation and Robot Association. Another seminar will be organized in Queen's University Belfast in November 2012 to introduce the state of the art research in (H)PKM for researchers, students and academics.
3) Pathway to product commercialization will be explored through above mentioned seminars or awareness raising meetings with participation of tool manufacturers (such as Gudel). Tool manufacturers are to obtain insightful understanding of practical industrial requirements, and will benefit from incorporating our models and methodology into their existing design tools.
4) The investigator has an excellent research track record with over 30 publications. The findings and results of this research will be published in high quality internationally conferences (such as IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, and International Conference on Manufacturing Research) and journals (e.g. International Journal of Machine Tools and Manufacture, and Mechanism and Machine theory), which will further enhance the applicant's existing strong record in publications.
5) 2-3 open seminars will be organized in Tianjin University during this visit, allowing both parties to disseminate their recent research to a wider audience.
6) The international standing of QUB will be enhanced by establishing key collaborations with the leading Chinese university. Detailed memorandum of understanding for future collaborations will be drafted during the visit.
7) The theoretical advances, models, algorithms and methods will be incorporated into the class module of robotics and manufacturing automation. A generic case study will be developed for both education and industrial training.

Publications

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Sun D (2016) Hole-making processes and their impacts on the microstructure and fatigue response of aircraft alloys in The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology

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Yiming Song (2014) Topology Design and Kinematic Optimization of a 2-DoF U-joint Parallel Manipulator with Large Rotation Angles in Proceedings of 2014 Workshop on Fundamental Issues and Future Research Directions for Parallel Mechanisms and Manipulators

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Zhang J (2015) Elastodynamic Modeling and Analysis for an Exechon Parallel Kinematic Machine in Journal of Manufacturing Science and Engineering

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Zhang J (2016) Kinetostatic-model-based stiffness analysis of Exechon PKM in Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing

 
Description Industrial survey and literature review were carried out to define and identify the relationships between assembly process requirements and design metrics of parallel kinematic machines (PKM). A number of novel design concepts of flexible manufacturing systems were proposed for fuselage joining, fuselage trimming, and wing spar drilling and assembly. A new process concept of wing spar assembly was also proposed by deploying automated solution, in order to minimize non-value-added activities of existing processes. The potential gain has been quantified for the wing spar case study. Through the review and discussions with partners, the pros and cons of existing PKMs were concluded, and a novel PKM concept which can overcome disadvantages of existing manufacturing systems was synthesized. Novel modelling methods on statics and dynamics were proposed for parallel kinematic machines, and they are evidenced by my journal publications. In addition, collaboration was set up with IFMA (Institute of Advanced Manufacturing in France) to work on the stiffness modelling of PKMs.
Exploitation Route Based on the research findings, further joint projects were developed with Bombardier Aerospace and Airbus UK to test capability of our existing PKM for a number of tasks, in particular, drilling and riveting. As a result, two follow-up projects were funded by Bombardier to investigate 'automated hole quality assessment method in aircraft assembly' and create '3D simulation of flexible assembly' during 2013-2015. And another related project 'Factory of the future for aircraft wing manufacture and assembly' led by Airbus UK was funded by Innovate UK to continue to investigate the automated drilling approach for aerospace production. To disseminate the research outcome, an international workshop was organized and attracted a lot of attention from both industry and academia. (https://connect.innovateuk.org/web/yan-jin/~/405026/blogs;jsessionid=B10AEF707768F8724E58B1B99C847383.2?p_p_id=33&p_p_lifecycle=0&p_p_state=normal&p_p_mode=view&p_p_col_id=column-1&p_p_col_count=1&p_r_p_564233524_tag=parallel+kinematic+machine). Also our findings are also published in high quality journal and international conferences.
In addition, a follow-up research proposal was submitted to EPSRC (EP/K036645/1), but unfortunately it was not funded. I am now drafting another proposal which is to be submitted before August 2016.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport

 
Description The research findings convince the industrial enterprises, in particular, Bombardier Aerospace Belfast and Airbus UK, the value of deploying parallel kinematic machine for implementing high precision automation, so as to gain the competitiveness. Also the research findings resulted from the travel grant led to the following successful grant applications: EPSRC proposal titled "Error-propagation Based Geometrical Quality Prediction and Control Strategy for Complex Manufacturing Processes Using Parallel Kinematic Machines", collaborating with King's College London, AMRC, MTC and Tianjin University; EU H2020 proposal titled "European and Chinese Platform for Stacked Aero-Structure Drilling Process and Equipment", collaborating with University of Warwick, University Duisburg-Essen Germany, Sigma University France, Tianjin University, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jiaotong University and Beijing Aeronautical Science and Technology Research Institute of Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd: one project funded by Innovate UK (ref.113045); and two industrial projects funded by Bombardier Aerospace Belfast. More important, this travel grant helps us to set up an excellent relationship with Tianjin University China, and one joint projects collaborating with Tianjin and Warwick University are funded by National Science Foundation China to investigate the Technical Fundamentals of the Stacked Aero-Structure Drilling Process and Equipment.
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Automated hole quality assessment method in aircraft assembly
Amount £4,569 (GBP)
Funding ID B050850 
Organisation Bombardier Inc. 
Department Bombardier Transportation
Sector Private
Country Germany
Start 11/2013 
End 05/2014
 
Description Cycle Time Prediction of Automated Aircraft Assembly
Amount £4,123 (GBP)
Funding ID B042079 
Organisation Bombardier Inc. 
Department Bombardier Transportation
Sector Private
Country Germany
Start 10/2012 
End 06/2013
 
Description Error-propagation Based Geometrical Quality Prediction and Control Strategy (Q-PreMan)
Amount £669,561 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P025447/1, EP/P026087/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2017 
End 06/2020
 
Description European and Chinese Platform for Stacked Aero-Structure Drilling Process and Equipment
Amount € 859,500 (EUR)
Funding ID 734272 
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2020
 
Description Fundamentals of the Stacked Aero-Structure Drilling Process and Equipment
Amount ¥2,900,000 (CNY)
Funding ID NSFC51420105007 
Organisation National Science Foundation China 
Sector Public
Country China
Start 01/2015 
End 12/2019
 
Description Robotic Drilling of Acoustic Liner Specimens (STEM)
Amount £189,000 (GBP)
Organisation Bombardier Inc. 
Department Bombardier Transportation
Sector Private
Country Germany
Start 10/2012 
End 04/2014
 
Description Collaboration with Bombardier Aerospace Belfast on automated aircraft assembly 
Organisation Bombardier Inc.
Department Bombardier Transportation
Country Germany 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution With two case studies provided by Bombardier, my research team has thoroughly analysed the existing assembly processes, and a number of promising opportunities are identified. Through three topic seminars on flexible assembly, Bombardier has a clearer picture re the current state-of-the-art capabilities of robot and PKMs. Bombardier are utilizing our testing data as a benchmark for measuring their currently processes. Bombardier and other industrial enterprises are currently exploring the potential of using robot/PKM for composite repair. Based on our research outcome, Bombardier are convinced by the flexible assembly approach. As a result, several projects in this field are recently carried out, i.e., automated hole quality assessment, and 3D digital simulation of flexible assembly.
Collaborator Contribution Two case studies, i.e. wing spar assembly and fuselage panel assembly, are provided by Bombardier. Engineering support was obtained in explaining the CAD drawings, fixture working principle and assembly processes. Support also covers the factory visit and meeting organization. Further funding was also provided to evaluate the robot repeatability and estimate cycle time of automated assembly with the robot assembly cell in NIACE. This collaboration is indispensable for the project, because the design requirements of parallel kinematic machines are resulted from the analysis of industrial processes, which are retrieved through case studies provided by Bombardier. Moreover, Bombardier also offered technical support to explain the engineering data, equipments and testing materials.
Impact The collaboration is definitely multi-disciplinary, as it covers following research areas. 1. Design, analysis, and control of robots and parallel kinematic machines (parallel robots) 2. Automated assembly processes of high precision aircraft assembly which is composed of static fixtures, automated flexible equipment, advanced metrology, and the large scale aero-structures 3. Digital manufacturing modelling to implement 3D simulation of the flexible assembly 4. Material science, in particular, CFRP (Carbon Fibre Reinforced Composites), Titanium alloy and Aluminium Alloy 5. Advanced machining, e.g., drilling on multi-stack heterogeneous CFRP/Ti/Al materials
Start Year 2007
 
Description Collaboration with Tianjin University on Design and Application of parallel kinematic machines 
Organisation Tianjin University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaboration was set up with the Research Group of Manufacturing Equipments and Systems (GMES, http://www.gmes.com.cn/jianjie.asp) in Tianjin University. Led by Prof. Tian Huang, GMES is a world-leading research centre in PKMs and manufacturing automation, with particular strength in kinematic/dynamic modelling, PKM performance evaluation and hardware implementation. Through the project, several challenging topics including topological synthesis, error/tolerance modeling, and calibration are identified, and currently under our joint investigation. Dr Xuda Qin, who is an associate professor in GMES, is coming to work together with my research group in Queen's during 04/06/2013 - 06/12/2013 on drilling composite/metal materials, supported by National Science Foundation in China. Experiments will be conducted with Dr Qin's patented cutting tool and my existing Exechon X700 parallel kinematic machine and metrology systems. Another three scholars, Prof. Tian Huang, Dr Tao Sun and Mr Manxin Wang are expected to visit Queen's at the end of year 2013. 2-3 high quality joint publication are expected from the collaboration. The collaboration created significant contribution to my research, not only getting my access to the world-leading equipements (e.g. patented cutting tool and A3 machine) in Tianjin Unviersity, but also drawing the knowledge of GMES in kinematic/dynamic modeling and modular components design and system integration of PKMs. This make me stay at the forefront of the PKM research, and create a strong collaborative network, as well as attract talented researchers to the UK.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Prof. Jun Zhang 
Organisation Anhui University of Technology
Department School of Mechanical Engineering
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Our contribution to this collaboration lies in the providing of the mechanism and kinematic model of parallel kinematic machines, on which our partner can work on to establish the kinetostatic and elastodynamic models. I have also provided lots of technical advice to the research students on formulating these models and writing the two journal papers.
Collaborator Contribution Anhui university assigned one designated master student (Y.Q. Zhao) to work on the modelling methods of parallel kinematic machines for two years. And Prof. Jun Zhang at Anhui University of Technology put lots of effort in conducting technical discussions with me, supervising the student, and writing the two joint journal publications.
Impact The outcome of the collaboration are the following joint publications. 1. J. Zhang, Y. Zhao, Y. Jin, Elastodynamic Modeling and Analysis for an Exechon Parallel Kinematic Machine, ASME Journal of Manufacturing Science and Engineering, Vol. 138(3), 031011, 2016 2. J. Zhang, Y. Zhao, Y. Jin, Kinetostatic-model-based Stiffness Analysis of Exechon PKM, Robotics and Computer Integrated Manufacturing, Vol.37, pp.208-220, 2016 3. T.F. Tang, Y.Q. Zhao, J. Zhang, Y. Jin, Conceptual Design and Workspace Analysis of an Exechon-inspired Parallel Kinematic Machine, 3rd IEEE/IFToMM International Conference on Reconfigurable Mechanisms and Robots, Beijing, China, 20 - 22 July 2015
Start Year 2013
 
Title A new 3-DOF parallel robot 
Description According to the process analysis of fuselage drilling and fasterning tasks, a new 3-DOF parallel robot concept which has three legs in an unsymmetrical architecture was proposed. Due to the special arrangements of joints and links, the parallel robot has decoupled motion and simple kinematics, which make ease of control and calibration. A miniature prototype was constructed to demonstrate the novel concept. Testing results validated the design concept. 
Type Of Technology Physical Model/Kit 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact The prototype is a useful tool to demonstrate the novel concept. A patent application based on this design is currently on-going. So the prototype have not been released yet. 
 
Description Kinematic Analysis and Aerospace Application of a New Parallel Kinematic Machine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This seminar is organized in Dalian University of Technology to introduce our latest research findings on kinematic analysis and aerospace applications of the Exechon Parallel Kinematic machine. Specifically, mobility, displacement, workspace analyses and dimension optimization are presented, as well as our experiments on the milling aluminium/composite materials. Over 40 postgraduates and 5 academic staffs attended the seminar.



Potential research collaborations and staff visits are currently under discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Kinematic Analysis and Dimension Optimization of a New Parallel Kinematic Machine 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This seminar is organized in Northeastern University China to introduce our latest research findings on kinematic analysis and dimension optimization of Exechon Parallel Kinematic machine. Specifically, mobility, displacement, workspace analyses and dimension optimization are presented, as well as its application in automated aircraft assembly. Over 20 postgraduates and 3 academic staffs attended the seminar.


After the talk, several postgraduate students enquired my research and expressed their interest in working in my research group.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Kinematic Design of a New Parallel Kinematic Machine for Aircraft Wing Assembly 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This presentation, which took place in School of Mechanical Engineering, Tianjin University, introduced a novel PKM concept for wing assembly operations. It covers task analysis and conceptual design, mobility and Jacobian analyses, and dimension optimization. Around 30 staffs and post graduates in Tianjin University attended the presentation. Attention has been attracted to the related work in the UK.

After the talk, several staffs in Tianjin University come to work in my research group for a period. And one joint project is funded by NSFC.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description PKM/Robots for Automated Aircraft Assembly 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This seminar is organized by Tianjin University to introduce the recent advance of PKMs and robots for aerospace automation. It covers our latest research with the Exechon PKM machine milling the wing root end, which provides an revolutionary method for aircraft assembly. Over 20 postgraduates and 6 academic staffs attended the seminar.

Testing experiments on helical milling were conducted. Three joint paper is published. Further collaboration opportunities and staff visits were discussed.

After the talk, the collaboration with Prof. Huang's team in Tianjin University was further strengthened. One joint research project titled "Fundamentals of the Stacked Aero-Structure Drilling Process and Equipment" was funded by National Science Foundation in China. Three staffs (Dr X.D. Qin for 6 months, Dr H.J. Zheng for 1 year, and Ms B.B. Lian for a year) in Tianjin University are attracted to Queen's to work in my research group as visiting scholars supported by Chinese Scholarship Council.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description workshop on Flexible Manufacturing System and Advanced Machining for Automated Aircraft Assembly 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Supported by Queen's University and NIACE, this workshop was organized on 11/06/2013, aiming to bring together academics and industrial enterprises to investigate the current trend and knowledge gaps in aerospace automation, with a particular focus on flexible manufacturing systems and advanced machining. Two talks were given by Dr Yan Jin and Dr Xuda Qin, on their latest research in these areas. A consortium was formed at the end of the workshop to work collaboratively in the area. Eighteen people from industry and academy attended the workshop.

Follow up project was obtained with Bombardier after this talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL https://connect.innovateuk.org/web/yan-jin/~/405026/blogs;jsessionid=B10AEF707768F8724E58B1B99C84738...