777 Aircraft Assembly System
  • Problem:

The Boeing Company needed a faster, more precise method of aligning and joining aircraft sections of the new generation 777 aircraft during assembly. They also wanted to have a record of all measurements observed during the alignment/joining process for quality assurance and manufacturing process control purposes.

Existing methods rely on sightings made by operators using optical instruments and manual measurements taken at key mating points of the aircraft during assembly. These methods have been found to be slow and do not provide or automatically document the tolerance data desired.

  • Task:

To design, develop, and produce an automated measurement system integrated with an advanced robotic control system which:

- Substantially reduces the time taken to measure aircraft join tolerances.

- Increases the measurement precision of the alignment process.

- Automatically documents all measurement data generated during an alignment.

- Significantly reduces production line and labor hours for this assembly operation.

  • Solution:

Research Technologies implemented a laser alignment system using it's computer controlled Model 1000 Rotating Laser and Model 9010 Laser Target. The rotating laser provides a flat reference plane of light which laser targets can interpret their relative position to.

Advantages of this system included:

PRODUCTION EFFICIENCY was increased by reducing alignment time from hours to minutes. An RT 1000 Laser can scan and take measurements from many targets simultaneously, versus an optical level, which can survey only one point at a time.

COST SAVINGS were realized by reducing the man-hours and time the assembly spent on the alignment fixture.

A MORE COMPETITIVE PRODUCT is achieved by improving alignment accuracy and aerodynamics, resulting in improved fuel mileage and reduced operating costs.

IMPROVED QUALITY, MANUFACTURING CONTROL AND SAFETY TO PARTS - the system provides a complete as built history and feedback to up stream and down stream assembly processes. Automatic monitoring for thresholds, operator alerts, and system diagnostics reduces potential for damage to assemblies. The system provides improved quality and manufacturing control by providing statistical data on the accuracy of each assembly and join.

Research Technologies received an award from Boeing for advancing the state of the art of large aircraft manufacturing.