Since their invention in 1903 by the Wright Brothers, Planes have gotten heavier then lighter, faster and more efficient. The state of the art airplane can circle the globe in approximately a day, but the assembly of airplanes is still as meticulously tedious as it was decades ago. An airplane wing isn’t just a piece of metal attached to the side of the plane, its a network of wires, vents, engines and turbines. It requires careful measurements and any mistake in the construction can lead to the death of hundreds. Still, the need is arising quickly of automation in the construction of airplanes to keep up with the air traffic that is set to triple by 2030.
The solution may be provided by the company Airbus, that has created a flexible, snake-like robot that can bend, twist and turn and perform most of the functions needed to build a streamlined wing for a plane.
The robot, which weighs 60 kg, can generate 500 Newton-meters of torque with its built-in gears. It is built up of eight sections, at a total length of 2.5 metres. Each section can independently turn at an angle of 90 degrees and weighs 15 kg. Each section includes a spindle and drive system. Each robot ends with a hand or an inspection camera. The design was produced by the research team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology (IWU).
Currently the robot is undergoing mechanical design and testing and will be displayed at the Automatica trade show in Munich from June 3 to 6, 2014. A full scale version of the robot may come out at the end of the year.