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The cobotic workstation, a key feature of the factory of the future, is fitted with a range of digital technology and will be piloted at the company’s Warton, Lancashire site to work safely and seamlessly alongside manufacturers building high-tech systems for cutting-edge combat aircraft.
The technologies that have been developed will be tested on the Typhoon production line, marking the latest step in BAE Systems’ strategy to continually invest in and enhance its manufacturing capabilities.
Robotics is already an integral part of BAE Systems’ combat aircraft production line which includes a high level of automation, but the integrated sensors that feature in the workstation make this the next step in people safely working directly with robots.
The technology will allow the worker to make strategic decisions while delegating to the cobotic arm repetitive, machine-driven tasks which require consistency. This will enable engineers to focus on highly-skilled tasks, adding greater value to the manufacturing process.
It will recognise operators and automatically load optimised individual profiles using wireless technology. It will also automatically deliver tailored cues and instructions, suitable for their level of expertise to guide them through practical tasks. This will allow employees to work at a greater pace, with increased accuracy.
• Operator recognition – the high tech workstation will use wireless sensors to identify each worker and tailor the working experience accordingly
• Digital training passport – will remember each worker’s level of expertise, training history and user permissions
• Cobotic arm – will be fitted with sensors to enable it to safely interact with employees during complex assembly tasks
• Light-assisted assembly – will prompt the user towards the correct components or consumables during the manufacturing process with light-assisted or pick by light technology
Dave Holmes, Manufacturing Director at BAE Systems’ Air business, said: “Cobotics is the next, natural step in developing manufacturing technology that will allow for a blending of skilled roles. We envisage that people will make larger, more strategic decisions while delegating the repetitive and intricate aspects of production to a robot.”
BAE Systems has collaborated with a number of partners including the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and Siemens which will provide MindSphere software. This software will connect technologies through the workstation and output manufacturing data that will help engineers analyse and improve the advanced manufacturing processes.
BAE Systems is involved in the manufacturing and development of some of the world’s most advanced combat aircraft, including the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35 Lightning II. BAE Systems has also invested in robotics as part of the early careers training programme at its state-of-the-art Academy for Skills & Knowledge at its Samlesbury site in Lancashire.
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