A Cost-Effective Way to Automate Industrial Processes
MBDA is one of the leading European manufacturers in the aerospace and armaments sector, specializing in the design of missiles and missile systems for the operational needs of the military. MBDA France’s Bourges site specializes in the manufacturing tactical missile equipment. The company wanted to automate certain processes in small series or even single unit production, by allowing an operator with no programming skills to teach the robotic system, in just a few seconds, the process to be carried out, and then to execute the cycle with complete confidence without human supervision.
Fuzzy Logic’s Repplix™ application software module addresses all aspects of this requirement in a cost-effective manner. The first use case selected was the tedious, manual cleaning of the molds used to manufacture composites.
MBDA France’s Bourges site produces numerous small series of composite parts that have to be molded. The speed at which the robot operates is set directly in the software. It can differ from the speed in the learning phase. This operation is complex: The parts to be treated are diverse and numerous and in each series, the level of residue to be stripped off, and its location may vary. This method of operation is tedious, and it also requires protecting the operator from exposure to toxic substances.
According to Vincent RAFIN, Head of the Factory of the Future Project at MBD, “At MBDA we look for agility when it comes to robotization. We want to robotize tasks which cause musculoskeletal disorders in our operators, and which occur in certain cases in the production of very small series or even single parts, so we need to keep the non-recurring costs of programming as low as possible. Programming a robot to define the trajectories of a laser is not the right approach for small series production, it is time-consuming and costly, and has to be done by a roboticist.”
For advice, MBDA turned to Meliad, a recognized expert in the aerospace industry for surface preparation and laser stripping, and to Staubli. The latter recommended Fuzzy Logic for its universal, visual programming solutions. Fuzzy Logic developed Repplix™, an extension of its Fuzzy Studio™ software, in cooperation with MBDA.
A portable learning device, controlled by the operator using his knowledge of the application task, teaches the Repplix™ software the first laser alignment. A monitoring function, performed via a real-time digital twin of the robotic installation created in Fuzzy Studio ™, takes into account collision monitoring and trajectory feasibility in the robot’s environment. Alert parameters are set up. Trajectory capture combines several process parameters, such as laser triggering and power. The operator, who is not a roboticist, is also able to modify the trajectory and process parameters via the graphical interface, even after the learning phase.
Then, from this digital twin, the cycle is launched and the robot moves with the laser, guided by the accurate capture of the trajectory learned from the operator. The speed at which the robot operates is set directly in the software. The cycle is performed autonomously by the robot, without the need for operator supervision. The same process, which takes only a few minutes, is done for each new series of molds.
Repplix™ can automate industrial processes like these. The solution developed in this way, is executed with millimeter precision, and is capable of extension to even more demanding applications in the future.
The manual operation can be reproduced with ease because the learning device is the representation of the real tool and is not directly linked to the robot. The operator manages the execution and planning of the movement himself using the software and the parametrized alerts.
The time needed to program the mold cleaning operation is slashed from several hours to only a few minutes. Productivity is increased by automating the cleaning operation and the risks for the operator are reduced.
“With Repplix™, the robot becomes a precision tool in the hands of the operator. Our solution allows him to automate his task in complete autonomy, without any intervention from a specialist. Another advantage is that Repplix™ is designed to start being used immediately, with no real training required,” said Ryan LOBER, CEO of Fuzzy Logic.
Nicolas GAUTIER, Robotics Technical Lead at MBDA, said, “MBDA is already working on extending it to cover new applications. For example, sandblasting, painting, welding, or waterjet cutting. These applications all have complex trajectories that need to be programmed. With conventional tools, we would need highly qualified personnel and a great deal of time and so programming them would be very costly. Fuzzy Logic, with Repplix™ has now removed this barrier, which prevented the cost-effective automation of such applications.”
This article was contributed by Fuzzy Logic (Paris, France). For more info visit here .
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