Boeing is transforming its 737 plant in Renton with new automation as it prepares to ramp up production to the unprecedented rate of 52 jets per month, or even more.
Six shiny, green 737 fuselage shells, freshly delivered by train from Wichita, Kan., sit snugly cradled in a steel superstructure like giant eggs in a carton at Boeing’s Renton factory.
Underneath, swarming mechanics install the guts of each airplane — wads of insulation blankets, snaking bundles of electrical wiring, intricately intertwined metal hydraulic tubes and pumps.
But despite appearances, those fuselages aren’t trapped in steel.
Soon, the steel walkways encasing the jets will lift away like drawbridges, freeing the fuselages to slide 150 feet forward during the night into the next position in Boeing’s newest moving assembly line.
The factory, already a showcase of efficiency with its two final-assembly lines churning out 42 of the single-aisle jets monthly, is gearing up by 2018 to build them at a prodigious pace of 52 a month — and later perhaps even more.
A key step is extending the use of moving assembly lines to the back-end shops where mechanics build the wings and stuff those fuselage shells. Continue Reading →
Robots on the rise
David Skidmore, a strategic solutions specialist at Concept Systems and a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association, says machine vision, robotics, and manufacturing intelligence are enabling the aerospace industry to automate tasks that pose safety risks for employees, are tedious, or time consuming – increasing production capacity and improving quality.
“Applications for intelligent robotics are becoming more prevalent,” Skidmore says.
Having a robot move a stack of parts allows the work cell to make active and intelligent decisions, identifying and processing the correct part rather than just pulling a part from the stack. Human interactions with robots are also a focus, with features to ensure movements, speeds, and torques for robots to integrate safely with workers.
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Four system integration experts offer their insights on manufacturing and what lies ahead for the industry. System integrators are vital to sustaining growth in manufacturing.
Ed Diehl, executive director, Concept Systems Inc, Albany, Oregon. (ranked #22 in the 2014 SI Giants):
“There’s been a big surge in robotics-based technology, robotic work cells. We’re finding that the price point for robots has come down and because skilled resources aren’t available, companies who were not doing it before are now looking to automate.
“Intelligent robots using 3-D scanning are a little more adaptable. That’s becoming a bigger part of what we do. We’re also seeing some middle-market companies, companies that haven’t automated in the past, looking at robotics.
When I first started in this business roughly 22 years ago, manufacturers used automation as a tool to increase production, speed up processes and improve cost effectiveness. It was not the norm to employ automation to drive sustainability. The desire to get costs down was enough to cause many manufacturers to seek better conditions overseas. The prevailing thought was to take advantage of the low cost labor force offered by Mexico, China, India and other countries. Continue Reading →
This video demonstrates the integration of an ABB robot using a Robotiq 2-Finger Adaptive Robot Gripper in combination with a SICK laser. The laser identifies the orientation of the randomly placed parts and allows the robot to determine how to pick it up, move it, and put it down in an organized manner. By integrating these technologies, Concept Systems has created an organized fully robotic system for picking and placing unorganized parts, allowing for full efficiency and allowing manufacturers to make more.