Airbus issues shop floor robotics challenge

Airbus issues shop floor robotics challenge

Teams from around the world invited to create innovative robotic solutions for a real-life manufacturing challenge.

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December 23, 2015
Manufacturing Group
Toulouse, France – The Airbus Shopfloor Challenge invites robotics teams from around the world to create innovative robotic solutions for a real-life manufacturing challenge, and compete live at the IEEE 2016 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) May 15-21, 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden.
 
With a backlog of almost 7,000 aircraft on order, Airbus is constantly innovating to find ways to improve its manufacturing processes by integrating emerging robotic technologies into its production lines.
 
Each aircraft is assembled through hundreds of thousands of point-based process steps. Most tasks involve a drilling process, a point-checking (i.e. measurement) process, and a tightening process. While some operations are automated, many remain manual due to a number of constraints – including space and weight restrictions. Using lightweight automation to perform such tasks would reduce the volume of the most repetitive, physically challenging labor of thousands of aircraft operators.
 
Because each generation of our manufacturing lines has a lifetime of more than a decade, robotic solutions need to be integrated into existing production environments with no dedicated physical infrastructure. Accuracy requirements are stringent, and quality is paramount. Since errors in a single step can lead to costly fixes and even disruptions in production, solutions have to meet high reliability standards. In addition, they have to be cost effective in order to be widely deployed in existing Airbus factories.
 
The robots currently able to perform point-based tasks at accuracy demanded by Airbus processes have a bad weight/payload ratio in order to be able to resist the loads generated by the operation. These already heavy machines use end effectors capable of multiple operations which further increase their weight. Such solutions have limited application in aircraft assembly, as they cause a multitude of problems and constraints at the industrialization phase. They require dedicated plant infrastructure, generate vibrations and other disturbances, and cannot co-operate safely with workers. There are further limitations regarding aircraft accessibility and high costs.
 
The Airbus Shopfloor Challenge will be one of the Robot Challenges at ICRA 2016, a highlight of the annual ICRA conference, and an opportunity for leading robotics teams to share their innovative ideas with leaders in the field.
 
Competing teams will design and build an advanced lightweight robotic system able to perform accurate drilling compliant with aeronautic standards. Robots will perform several rounds of a simplified drilling task on a piece representing part of the aircraft fuselage. Success will be measured based on the number of holes drilled within a specified time and accuracy. Some of the holes will be more challenging due to access constraints. Weight cost of the robot will also be taken into account.
 
Airbus will send panels to qualifying teams. We are willing to support contestants with equipment and material, subject to their proposal and needs.
 
The winning Airbus Shopfloor Challenge team will receive a cash prize, but more importantly, the team will have the opportunity to develop its idea for commercial application within Airbus. Other teams with promising solutions may also be invited to develop their idea further with Airbus.
 
Registration period for teams to compete in the Airbus Shopfloor Challenge is open from December 12, 2015 to March 15, 2016, 12 GMT (noon).
 
Fill out the registration form, then mail the signed agreement to info@shopfloorchallenge.com with the subject line REGISTRATION FORM: TEAM NAME.
 
Complete the questionnaire, introducing your team and your proposal, then send it to info@shopfloorchallenge.com with the subject line QUESTIONNAIRE: TEAM NAME.
 
The competition will run live during ICRA 2016. It will consist of multiple 60-minute rounds of drilling holes in an aluminum panel representing an aircraft part. The final round will be a confrontation between the top two teams.
 
The robot must be able to drill over the whole surface while installed on a fixed station. Multiple arms/effectors are allowed as a solution, as long as adequate fleet/synchronization management is performed.
 
Hand-held electrical tools are currently used as end effectors, but participants are free to propose their own system. Manual lubrication is allowed. Airbus will work with qualifying teams to supply drilling tools and cutters.
 
No data transmission or remote control will be permitted during a round.
 
All algorithms must use an open source system as the main driver.
 
To qualify for the contest, the robot has to be:
  • Modularly designed, at least at the arm level
  • Weigh less than 100kg
 
Source: Airbus