|December 06, 2022||Volume 18 Issue 45|
Modern Applications News
Metalworking Ideas For
Today's Job Shops
Tooling and Production
Strategies for large
The new Active Taping Kit (ATK) from Aerobotix and FerRobotics. [Credit: Aerobotix]
Two leading robotics companies have partnered on a new solution in response to the aerospace industry's demand for an automated tool for precision masking tape application. Engineers from Aerobotix, based in Huntsville, AL, and FerRobotics, based in Austria, have developed an impressive End of Arm Tooling (EOAT) system that provides smooth masking on parts varying in shape and puts down precise tape lines where the customer needs them -- even on intricate curvy paths. The new Active Taping Kit (ATK) tool uses FerRobotics' patented Active Compliant Technology (ACT), which enables a robot to use varying pressure when applying tape to an aircraft.
"Customers have been asking Aerobotix to automate the masking process for years," said Chris Kolb, Aerobotix vice president of Sales. "The response was always, 'Wouldn't that be great,' but the technology required to do it correctly just wasn't available yet. The FerRobotics ACT device lets the robot 'feel' the part and instantly adjust the pressure used to apply the tape. We needed this sensitivity to put masking tape down correctly and not damage high-value parts."
VIDEO: Sometimes you just have to see it in action: Active Taping Kit (ATK) tool. [Credit: Aerobotix]
The developers say the new tool is a leading example of Industry 4.0, and they claim the FerRobotics ATK demonstrates unmatched technology, with its precision control of all individual process parameters: contact force, cutting, and tape consumption. The ready-to-use solution offers robot-compatible sensitive tape application combined with all the benefits of the ACT system cooperation.
The ATK exceeded expectations for precision and reliability when it underwent testing at Aerobotix's in-house process laboratory, a facility housing a range of automated systems used to paint, cure, sand, and inspect products for aerospace and defense customers. The ATK's automated masking process is on track to redefine the painting process and is already being tested on several aircraft.
"The ATK offers the highest process quality from one source, and with a design that's compact and light," said Dr. Ronald Naderer, FerRobotics Founder and CEO. "It's extremely durable and is designed to apply various kinds of tapes on any part or surface with exact repeatability and without bubbles or wrinkles. This joint project with Aerobotix has resulted in an innovative product that should thoroughly satisfy customer needs."
Funding for this international project was provided by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), led by Dr. Carl Lombard, materials research engineer. The scientific research organization recognized the potential value in the EOAT concept and assessed that manufacturing downtime during the pandemic offered a good opportunity to support development and testing. Additionally, Dr. Lombard's exposure to programs where manual masking is impacting costs and delivery schedules made him, and the AFRL, the right fit for financially backing the development of this new solution.
Two views of the ATK's taping capabilities. [Credit: Aerobotix/FerRobotics]
"We jokingly call it our pandemic baby," said Kent Pfeifer, Aerobotix process engineering manager who led the project's U.S. team. "Both of our companies had some extra bandwidth during the pandemic disruptions, and because AFRL had some funding to back us, we just went for it. We are running all types of masking tapes through the ATK and, so far, they're all working great. What we didn't realize going into this is that having the robot put down the first tape lines saves the painters a ton of time and errors, as they then don't have to measure or use templates to get the tape lines accurate. The savings, in time and costs, are exceeding all our expectations."
In November, the ATK was honored as one of only five projects to be nominated for the Econovius, a special prize under the Austrian National Innovation Award. The successful nominees were selected from more than 400 entries. The Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy presents the ANI Award annually to encourage companies to develop innovative products that contribute to the country's economic growth.
Aerobotix has a host of other mobile robot solutions (floor-mounted robotic systems placed on automated guided vehicles or AGVs) available for the aerospace industry, including an Adaptive Radome Diagnostic Mobile Robot System, a multi-talented Mobile Multi-Use Robot, and Mold In Place robots used on the F-35. Learn more at aerobotix.net/expertise/mobile-robotics/.
Learn more about FerRobotics' Active Taping Kit (ATK) at ferrobotics.com/en/services/products/active-taping-kit-atk-robotic-masking-tape-applicator-end-effector/.
Sources: Aerobotix, FerRobotics
Published December 2022