Güdel’s UK operation has been working closely within the UK aerospace sector since the company’s inception in 1994. The extensive knowledge and expertise gained by the Coventry based subsidiary, through its collaboration in a wide range of aerospace projects in recent years, has been acknowledged with Güdel UK being named as the Group’s Centre of Excellence for Aerospace applications.
In this article, Gary Ottley of Güdel UK explains why the company’s technology and expertise has become a mainstay of the aerospace manufacturing sector, not just here in the UK, but globally.
The physical size of the components manufactured within the aerospace sector requires automation on a scale many times larger than most other manufacturing environments. In addition, the operations being performed are diverse, ranging from drilling, fastening, composite material handling and lay-up, sealing, assembly, cleaning, polishing and non-destructive testing.
The large physical size of the components being manufactured does not however mean large tolerances. Quite the contrary. The manufacturing tolerances for aerospace parts are generally more demanding than those for other much smaller safety critical components, such as those found in the automotive sector.
Güdel’s range of highly accurate modules are at the heart of the many aerospace applications where the company has been involved. The ability to combine industry proven individual linear modules to produce diverse multi-axis systems means that Güdel’s reputation for rigidity, precision and speed is built-in to these specially configured systems. The Güdel Gantry robots used within the aerospace sector often span great distances, one example being 40m wide, 150m long and capable of handling a payload of 30 tonnes.
For example, Güdel Gantry robots are an integral part of the production systems for A380 wing Outer Rear Spar, transporting the specialist tooling systems used to produce the multitude of holes on each component. In another of the more unusual applications, a 5 axis Güdel Gantry system uses a 1.0m diameter wheel, combined with force monitoring, to create a highly polished mirror finish on aircraft fuselage sections. This instantly recognisable finish, on the aircraft of a major airline, is more than just aesthetic; there are savings in weight from not applying paint and also the finish aids aerodynamic performance.
The high levels of rigidity and accuracy inherent in these gantry systems, combined with their ability to span great distances, make them the ideal platform for the integration of one or more conventional 6-axis robots. This combination delivers the benefits of additional flexibility and dexterity required for more demanding applications. Having multiple robots mounted above or below a gantry can greatly reduce cycle times. Systems similar to the one shown here, can be used for assembling wing ribs, spars and skins, or produce holes and insert fasteners.
The significant increase in the use of composite materials within the aerospace and renewable energy sectors is another area where Güdel Gantry technology and systems are also playing a key role. Güdel has a range of flexible, reconfigurable systems for composite material handling. Typical solutions include the handling of dry fibre materials, kitting of parts and laying up of wing skin moulds. Güdel technology is also used in mould cleaning systems, incorporating the latest in laser technology to clean and extend mould life in an environmentally friendly manner.