Huntsville, Alabama-based AS9100 certified robotics integrator and metrology company Aerobotix helped key partner Compass Technology Group (CTG) win the top Defense Manufacturing Technology Achievement Award (DMTAA) at the recent Defense Manufacturing Conference (DMC). Atlanta, Georgia-based CTG, a provider of radio frequency (RF) materials measurement equipment, engaged Aerobotix in building its award-winning project – an adaptive radome diagnostic system, which is also the first use of a collaborative mobile robot in Air Force maintenance depots.
“Aerobotix is extremely proud and honored to have assisted Compass Technology Group in this endeavor,” said Josh Tuttle, business development manager at Aerobotix. “This truly is an example of Industry 4.0, as these self-navigating robots can be rapidly repurposed to serve multiple objectives, and in multiple locations.”
The mobile robot manipulates an Advanced Microwave Mapping Probe (AMMP), developed by the engineers at CTG under the Air Force’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The system uses microwave signals to non-destructively evaluate (NDE) aircraft radomes and identify defects such as delamination or water ingress. Aerobotix designed and built a system using a FANUC CRX-10iA collaborative robot, riding on a custom automated guided vehicle (AGV), and using light detection and ranging (LiDAR) to scan the work zone for safe navigation. The robot finds and orients to the part, adjusts the scanning paths and executes the detailed part analysis.
"This dramatic technology leap has enabled us to deploy laboratory precision in an Air Force manufacturing environment,” said Dr. John Schultz, Chief Scientist at CTG. “Combining our sensors and algorithms with Aerobotix’s automation system has moved us from literally tapping a penny while listening for substrate damage, to instead quantifying microwave performance with self-navigating LiDAR on a mobile base with a FANUC collaborative robot. Our robotic microwave NDE system will put better parts back in the air, quicker and at less cost."
Established in 1999, the annual DMTA Awards are given to teams comprising government, industry, and academia employees responsible for outstanding projects in manufacturing technology. These projects must demonstrate technical accomplishments and provide a responsive world-class manufacturing capability that affordably meets the warfighter’s needs throughout the defense acquisition lifecycle.
“Aerobotix is perhaps best known for robotic painting, but this award for our work with CTG highlights our expertise in metrology and navigation systems,” added Tuttle. “We are a reliable automation integrator for the aerospace industry and excited to partner with other companies on future projects.”