Experiment name: ENDORSE

Manufacturing end-user: Enikon Aerospace d.o.o.

The Business Sector

The aircraft manufacturing industry is bracing itself for an anticipated order boom in the next 20 years. Industry experts observe that air traffic doubles every 15 years. As a result, experts predict that by 2035 there will be an estimated demand for 33,000 – 40,000 new passenger and freighter aircrafts at a value of USD 5.2 -5.9 trillion. Along with capacity expansion in the airline industry, there will also be a need to retire and replace older aircraft models. ENIKON Aerospace d.o.o. (EnAe) is the leading company in the world within the niche market of outsourcing of preparation and final painting of molded interior parts for commercial and business aircraft.

With over 10 30 years of experience ENIKON Aerospace d.o.o has special expertise in finishing and painting composite parts and was the first company in the industry to shift from solvent to water-based paints, and still remains the technological leader in this area. In addition, Enikon has experimented with diversification into other sectors where high quality is a requirement, and potential to achieve high margins, such as the finishing and painting of medical devices.Within the aerospace industry, Enikon provides surface preparation, painting and finishing of interior commercial aircraft parts such as sidewall panels, ceiling panels, passenger/service/utility panels and various other interior components for commercial aircraft. Enikon typically supplies Tier One aerospace suppliers, who in turn supply Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s), such as Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Sukhoi and Embraer. Enikon is now making inroads into automation. For example, it has created robots to perform certain grinding and finishing functions, allowing it to produce even more consistent quality with a fraction of the labor cost. In ENDORSE, EnAe will be involved in consulting partners during software development, as well as testing and system integration. ENDORSE_main2

The Challenge

In order to respond to an ongoing skilled labor shortages and demand for high quality products, EnAe has begun with the automation of grinding process, which is vital for surface preparation prior to the high-quality painting finish. Automation of this process has several benefits: i) consistent quality of the final product, ii) no human errors, iii) the wastage of material is reduced to minimum, and iv) the exposure of employees to dusty atmosphere is minimized.

Although the current robotic grinding work cell can process up to 75% of part’s surface, the time the part spends being processed by the robot is only 8% of the total processing time. Other 92% of the time, the part is handled and processed by human workers. Since the grinding produces a very fine dust, the most important goal of this project is to shorten the time a human worker needs to spend in such hazardous conditions. To that end, an additional robot will be introduced into the process. Use of a more agile and human friendly robotic manipulator in the process will result in the increase of the percentage of a parts area that is processed by robots, as the human workers will be able to teach the robot how to grind more complex parts. In order to shorten the time a human worker processes a part, automated quality inspection system using the aforementioned agile robot equipped with lasers will be developed.

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Planned solution:

Project ENDORSE aims to achieve these goals through the following four objectives:

  • Compliant control algorithm - Implementation of impedance-based robot force control algorithm designed to treat the composite surfaces by controlling the force applied in all 6 degrees of freedom.
  • Human oriented machine interface - Design of interface based on the concept of ‘programming by demonstration’, where an experienced human operator demonstrates the robot how to treat specific surfaces, hence avoiding calculation of complex trajectories.
  • Safety of human -robot collaborative grinding - Integrate system components with a special attention paid to human operator safety and system efficiency.
  • Automated quality inspection system - Design of a reliable method of measuring the smoothness of the surface, using the same robotic manipulator, to facilitate the expected quality of grinding procedure.

Partners:

ENDORSE_icent ENDORSE_larics
ENDORSE_fer ENDORSE_enikon