As part of the Advanced Composites Project, which has a goal to improve “methods, tools, and protocols to reduce the development and certification timeline for composite materials and structures,” NASA is testing collaborative robots to perform quality inspections on aircraft fuselages.
Each fuselage is inspected with infrared thermography, which requires moving heavy equipment around all surfaces to complete the inspection process. The Universal Robots UR10 was selected to replace the manual inspections that required high operator costs and increased the complexity of the task. Using a collaborative robot, only one worker is required to monitor the inspection process, which follows a program for each inspection that was perfected prior to deployment.
Operators may work nearby the collaborative robot due to its innovative safety features. Because the collaborative robot is also operating on a predetermined path, operators may perform additional inspections at the same time. Additionally, “The data that we record when the vehicle is manufactured can stay with the vehicle for its life,” said Elliott Cramer, Branch Head of Nondestructive Evaluation Sciences at NASA Langley Research Center. “Because it was done robotically the first time, you know exactly where it was and you have a means to go back to that exact location and compare any changes that may be occurring during the life of the vehicle.”