Tomorrow’s Aerospace Composites Factory Is Here Today

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Tomorrow’saerospacecomposites factoryis here todayIndustry 4.0 technologies drivemanufacturing engineeringinnovationSiemens Digital Industries SoftwareBy Zvika WeissmanDirector of Manufacturing EngineeringSolutions for the Aerospace andDefense IndustrySiemens Digital Industries

By Zvika WeissmanDirector of Manufacturing Engineering Solutionsfor the Aerospace and Defense IndustrySiemens Digital Industries SoftwareTomorrow’saerospace compositesfactory is here todayThe use of composite materials in the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry has beenaccelerating since the first use of composites in the F-14 in the 1970s. As materialsand manufacturing technologies havedeveloped, the percentage by structuralweight of composites used in aircraft manufacturing has quickly and significantlyincreased – from two percent in the F-15 toaround 50 percent in the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft and the 787 Dreamliner.At the same time, the traditional aerospacefactory with conservative concepts, repetitive tasks and labor-rich processes is transforming into the factory of the future –using Industry 4.0 technologies in smart,connected, transparent and automated processes that are adaptable to productchanges and demand fluctuations. Nationsacross the globe are forming public-privatepartnerships and investing heavily in engineering and manufacturing digitalization todirectly impact gross domestic productthrough the manufacturing sector.Many A&D companies believe they are toobusy coping with day-to-day challenges intheir production operations, to implementIndustry 4.0 concepts and technologies.This article discusses some key factory-of-thefuture concepts including advanced robotics,production simulation, additive manufacturing, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR)and the industrial Internet of things (IIoT),and describes how these technologies canbe leveraged to transform A&D compositesmanufacturing.Robotics and additive manufacturingfor compositesSiemens and Stratasys, a leading manufacturer of 3D printers and 3D productionBreakthrough technology: Stratasys composite material extruder attached to a KUKA robot, programmed usingSiemens multi-axis software.

systems, are collaborating to break throughthe layer-by-layer approach of conventionaladditive technologies and the limiting processes of conventional composites production. One of the results of this cooperation isthe Robotic Composite 3D Demonstrator,which uses a Stratasys composite materialextruder as an end-effector mounted on aKUKA robot that is simulated and programmed by advanced multi-axis softwarefrom Siemens. One of the unique capabilities this brings to industry is the 8-axis kinematics of the robot and the tables, whichenable precise material placement for maximized part strength and build speed. Thetechnology can eliminate the need for support material and reduces post-processinglabor and lead time.Production simulation for compositeproduction cellsAerospace composite manufacturers canaccelerate time-to-production and automatemanufacturing processes using roboticworkcell design, simulation and offline programming for automated composites layupand inspection. Some of the most complexexamples are workcells for ultrasonic qualityinspection of composite components.Engineering and optimizing such an inspection station requires definition of roboticpaths to include a pattern of inspectionpoints; a programmable logic controller tosynchronize the devices and control safetyinterlocks; and definition of the control logicfor inter-device signals.Process Simulate Robotics software in theTecnomatix portfolio provides tools forbuilding digital twins of such complex workcells that precisely simulate the operation tovalidate the process. Manufacturing engineers can author, re-use, validate and optimize manufacturing process sequences inan interactive visual environment with realistic behavior using fully kinematic 3D models. These solutions support a variety ofrobotic and automation processes, allowingfor early validation of automation conceptsvirtually and the simulation, offline programming and commissioning of completeproduction systems.Aerospace compositemanufacturers can accelerate time-to-productionand automate manufacturing systems using roboticworkcell design, simulationand offline programmingsoftware.Human simulation refines aerospaceproduction tasks and work environmentsAdvanced human modeling, visualizationand simulation technologies coupled withclassic ergonomics and human factorsassessment techniques can help aerospacemanufacturers optimize production processes, evaluate human factors and validateSiemens human modeling and simulation software helps verify human factors suchas reachability for composite layup molds.the traditional aerospace factory withconservative concepts, repetitive tasks andlabor-rich processes is transforming into thefactory of the future.

tooling for composites manufacturing, suchas manual layup molds. Siemens ProcessSimulate Human software provides humancentered design tools for performing ergonomic analysis of virtual productionenvironments. The human models can besized to match worker populations and helpassess manufacturing process and toolingdesigns for multiple factors including reachability, injury risk, user comfort, line ofsight, energy expenditure, fatigue limits andother human parameters.Virtual commissioning forcomposites manufacturingOne of the most advanced applications ofproduction simulation is virtual commissioning (VC). Simulation of robotics and automation has traditionally focused on themechanical aspects of their operation –motion in space, cycle times, collisions andconflicts. Virtual commissioning interlinksmechanical engineering with automationengineering. When designing smart workcells with jigs, automation, sensors, kinematics and inter-device communication,mechanical and automation engineers canwork side-by-side, in the same environment,using collaborative tools.Working with comprehensive, high-fidelitydigital twins of complex robotics workcells,engineers can develop, validate, debug andoptimize robotic paths and controls logic ina virtual environment, completely offline,before downloading it to the real workcellequipment. Using Tecnomatix VC solutions,companies can use hardware-in-the-loop(HiL) and software-in-the-loop (SiL) simulations to confirm that complex workcells willperform as expected, significantly reducingsystem installation costs, errors and rampup time.Virtual commissioning of an ultrasonic composite wing quality inspection workcell usingSiemens software.Plant simulation helps optimizeproduction facilitiesAdvanced simulation technologies enablecompanies to model, simulate, explore andoptimize production facilities well inadvance of production execution.Tecnomatix Plant Simulation softwareincludes tools for modeling, simulation,exploring and optimizing poduction andlogistics processes. The plant models enableanalysis of material flow, resource utilizationand labor requirements. Discrete-event simulation and statistical analysis help increasemanufacturing accuracy and efficiency,improve throughput and overall system performance and make fast, reliable manufacturing decisions.One of the most advancedapplications of productionsimulation is virtualcommissioning (VC).Throughput optimization of composites cutting and kitting, using Plant Simulation software.

Augmented realitytechnology has thepotential to completelytransform the paradigmof shop floor workinstructions.Virtual reality for productiondesign reviewsAnother Industry 4.0 technology that canbenefit aerospace composites manufacturers is virtual reality (VR). The technology,established and matured in the video gameindustry, has developed into a cost-effectiveand versatile tool for manufacturing engineering of factories. VR use cases and applications include engineering and processreviews, customer proposal reviews, preproduction training, safety zone evaluation,ergonomic analysis, quality inspections, service technician training, service documentation and remote service.Virtual reality exploits production digitaltwins created with Process Simulate software to provide a realistic and immersiveexperience that enables manufacturingengineering teams to virtually tour allaspects of production lines in operation –assembly, drilling, riveting, ultrasonicinspection, painting and others. VR can digitally represent all elements of factory production, including human models toevaluate reachability and ergonomics, andeven human-machine interfaces for specificspace interaction analysis. Tools for issuemanagement enable production reviewteams to identify, capture, find, manageand verify issues, and to efficiently resolvethem with production modifications – allthis in a virtual environment, before the production line has been commissioned.The Process Simulate VR solution offersmany benefits in addition to improvedunderstanding of the factory floor throughrealistic 3D immersion. VR is safe, becauseusers can go anywhere in the factory without risks or injury, and VR can yield timelyinsights to inform decision-making. Withmulti-user and multi-site collaboration tools,companies can perform frequent and continuous analysis of manufacturing processesand reduce travel costs. High-performancevisualization running on inexpensive hardware without requiring data conversionhelps reduce IT and infrastructure expenses.Augmented reality transformswork instructionsAugmented reality (AR) technology has thepotential to completely transform the paradigm of shop floor work instructions.Traditionally, A&D companies have usedblueprints and other hardcopy work instructions to guide shop floor personnel.Unfortunately, it is an endless struggle tokeep hardcopy instructions updated, introducing manufacturing mistakes.With the production digital twin, up-to-dateinformation in the form of electronic workinstructions can flow seamlessly to the shopfloor. AR technology enables the workinstructions to include 3D digital data, projected on physical components, to guideoperators step by step through assemblyoperations. Taking AR solutions to the nextlevel can save the endless chase to updatework instructions, as what you see (as adocumentation engineer) is what you geton the shop floor for the technicians.

Aerospace manufacturersare moving away fromlarge, inflexible productionmachines to flexible roboticworkcells.Process simulation and offlineprogramming for more flexibleproduction linesTraditionally, aerospace companies havemanufactured products like airplanes bymoving the product to the machines andthe tooling. For large aerospace products,moving the product can naturally introducesignificant production challenges. In thefuture aerospace factory, much of thetooling – automated machines and robots –will be mobilized with the help of automated guided vehicles (AGVs). This changein the production paradigm enables aerospace manufacturers to rethink their factories for greater flexibility and efficiency.Aerospace manufacturers are moving awayfrom large, inflexible production tooling toflexible robotic workcells. One example ofthis trend is Electroimpact, a world leader inthe design and manufacturing of aerospacetooling and automation. Traditionally a provider of large manufacturing equipment likecomposite layup workcells and C-frame drilling and riveting machines, Electroimpact istransforming into a supplier of flexiblerobotic workcells and production lines.Electroimpact is partnering with Siemens todevelop technology for planning, validationand optimization of these advanced manufacturing systems.One of the tools Electroimpact provides toits customers is SIMpact PS, a lightweight,simulation-based offline programming system for the company’s robots and machines.Built on the Siemens Process Simulate software infrastructure, SIMpact PS incorporatesnative device building, kinematics, programspecification, simulation, collision detectionand offline programming (OLP) capabilities.Each application of the software is developed in parallel with the automation components of the project and the requirementsof the customer, ensuring maximum capability and accuracy. With SIMpact PS, customers have advanced machinecustomization capabilities that greatlyreduce the amount of custom machine codeand minimize change time to the OLP software when changes are made to themachine. The superior simulation performance of Process Simulate reduces the processing time and speed of simulation.Advanced technologies forcomposites manufacturingPlataine is another Siemens partner that isfocused on optimizing composites manufacturing, using factory-of-the-future technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI)and the Internet of Things (IoT). Plataine’ssoftware solutions include capabilities formaterial and asset tracking, material shelflife management, work in process (WIP)optimization, and composite fabric cuttingand kitting. The collaboration with Siemensincludes integration of ManufacturingProcess Planner software in theTeamcenter portfolio with Plataine’s cutting and kitting application, which optimizes nesting to reduce waste of expensivecomposite materials.AGVs can mobilize tooling like this painting robot.

Integration of Siemens manufacturingplanning tools with Plataine cutting andkitting tools enables customers to optimizecomposites nesting and minimize materialwaste.The partnership also integrates Platainesolutions with the Siemens Opcenter software manufacturing execution system(MES) to manage composite material onthe shop floor.Leveraging IIoT technology to optimizeservice maintenanceThe Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) isalready revolutionizing aerospace manufacturing. By connecting physical manufacturingassets, IIoT enables the acquisition of datafrom factory operations to build the digitaltwin of production performance. With theaccessibility of greater amounts of data, atfar greater s