A Hole Lot More: Increasing production capacity by 300%.

An Automated Robotic Drilling Workcell Case Study

Robotic Drilling Work Cell

Meggitt Polymers & Composites recently updated their manufacturing operations by installating a Cutting and Drilling workcell, designed and integrated by Concept Systems.

The fully automated drilling workcell uses a Fanuc M-710 series robotic arm and state of the art end of arm tooling to drill and cut material for the aerospace industry. The goal of this project was to improve accuracy and throughput of thousands of parts, allowing Meggitt Polymers & Composites to meet the needs of their customers.

The Problem: Doing Things by Hand

Headquartered in the United Kingdom, Meggitt PLC is an international group employing some 8,000 people specializing in aerospace equipment, high performance sensors, defence training and combat systems. Meggitt Polymers & Composites, in McMinnville, OR focusses on delivering gaskets and seals to rigorous standards to be used by some of the world’s leading manufactures.

Meggitt Polymers & Composites had an opportunity to expand their business with a current client, but to do so, they would have to increase production by means other than human labor. Historically, the work on these parts was being done manually in a labor intensive manner. Production rates were limited to an average of 1000 parts per year, but needed to increase production by 300%, or 3000 parts per year, to meet demand. In addition to throughput, accuracy and safety were of high concern.

“A lot of these operations were being done by hand, and we were missing holes,” James Robertson, Meggitt’s vice president of operations, said in a recent news article featuring the project. “This enabled us to simplify the process and improve our quality.”

The Solution: Robotic Drilling Work Cell

Concept Systems kicked off the automated robotic drilling work cell project by meeting with the project manager at Meggitt, to first understand their operations, concerns and goals, ensuring the right solution was delivered based on measurable results and a favorable return on investment. Once the objectives, timelines, and goals were established, Concept moved forward with the design of the work cell.

The robotic drilling system that Concept created for the drill and cutting project is a fully automated work cell featuring a Fanuc M-710 Robot. The work cell boasts an integrated tool changer that provides seamless interchange of tools, allowing continuous production of the desired hole shape and size for 8 different parts. Further, Concept designed end-of-arm tooling to accommodate 14 automated, interchangeable options for drilling and cutting. To support flexibility of the work cell, Concept also designed and provided fixture racks to accommodate 8 different parts. All of this was under the direction of a thorough risk assessment based on ANSI/RIA R1506-2012: safety first design of the work cell and all components.

The Results

The work cell has now been in production for over 6 months and the initial results show that the project was a success. Meggitt has expanded their production capacity to 3000 parts per year – a 300% increase as per the project goal. Meggitt has also achieved high precision and repeatability from the drilling robot and tools which significantly reduced rework and product loss. Last, the physical guard fencing, door interlocks, and area scanners provide the latest in worker protection.

Project Details

Project Duration

4 Months


Client: 1 engineer

Concept Systems: 4 engineers

Concept Time On Site

2 Weeks

Technology Used

Fanuc M-710iC Series Robot

ServoRobot Tool Changer

PushCorp High Torque Servo Toolholder

Tool Changing Station

4 Custom Built Part Fixtures

Safety Interlocked System Guarding: Light Curtain, Area Scanner, Dust Hood