BAE Systems is set to trial new collaborative robots (cobots) designed to support manufacturing for the complex production of combat aircraft by the end of this year.
The company will pilot the cobot manufacturing workstation at its Warton site in Lancashire, UK.
A new range of digital technology features such as operator recognition will use wireless sensors to identify workers and customise the working experience.
Other features include digital training passport to remember the level of expertise and training history and user permissions of each worker. A cobotic arm will be equipped with sensors to allow safe interaction with employees during complex assembly tasks, and light-assisted assembly that will lead the user towards the right components or consumables during the manufacturing process.
Cobot manufacturing will enable the company to incorporate and integrate technologies such as reconfigurable, multifunction technology, 3D printing, augmented reality and manufacturing autonomy.
BAE Systems Air Business manufacturing director Dave Holmes said: “Cobotics is the next, natural step in developing manufacturing technology that will allow for a blending of skilled roles.
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“We envisage that people will make larger, more strategic decisions while delegating the repetitive and intricate aspects of production to a robot.
“Through the factory of the future technology, automation will empower employees to work safely at greater speed and with maintained accuracy, leading to increased productivity and quality.”
BAE Systems has partnered with the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and Siemens who will provide the company with the MindSphere to help connect technologies through the workstation and output manufacturing data.
This will allow the engineers to analyse and improve the advanced manufacturing processes.
By the end of this year, the new technologies will be tested on the Eurofighter Typhoon production line.