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Friday, February 21, 2014

Will Airbus Futurassy Robots Build Aircraft?

Woodrow Bellamy III 

[Aviation Today February 21, 2014] Airbus launched the early stages of its Futurassy project, an innovative study looking at the feasibility of using humanoid robots to perform aircraft building tasks along its various assembly lines. 
Airbus Futurassy Humanoid robot. Photo, courtesy of Airbus Group.
The first humanoid robot built for the Futurassy project has arrived at the Airbus Puerto Real plant in Cadiz, Spain. Japanese manufacturer Kawada builds the two-arm humanoid robots, which the French airframe manufacturer is hoping will eventually be used to perform repetitive tasks, allowing human workers to focus on higher value tasks.  
According to a spokesperson for Airbus, Futurassy is in the very early stages, and the company is looking to assess the value of using robots to assist its assembly workers with simple tasks. 
Futurassy has two areas of research. The first, Airbus Standard Robotic Cells, looks to develop automated solutions along the assembly line and provides an assessment of the cost effectiveness and flexibility of using Kawada's robots to build airframes. 
The second research area is called Collaborative Robots and studies collaboration between humanoid two-armed robots and human operators, sharing tools and production resources. 
Airbus isn't the only airframe manufacturer looking into the use of robots to assemble aircraft either. According to several recent reports, Boeing is already using robots to paint the wings of its largest aircraft, the 777. 
Although the robots Boeing is using are simply autonomous arms that mimic the actions oaf a human painter, both Boeing and Airbus are looking to start incorporating more robots into their assembly line process to keep up with increased demand and reduce their growing backlogs of commercial orders. 
The first humanoid robot that arrived in Puerto Real is going to be integrated into the factory's A380 rudder spar assembly station where riveting will be shared between human assemblers and the robot.


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