With New Robot Line, Airbus Aims to Increase ProductivityBy Sofía Hanna | Mon, 07/26/2021 - 14:31
As part of its Industry 4.0 initiatives, aerospace giant Airbus introduced its new achievement: fully automated solar array production for aircraft and spacecraft. This new project incorporates 18 different robots working in tandem for the seamless construction of solar cells. Its advantage, explains Airbus, is that it “never gets tired and doesn’t make any mistakes.”
The 18 collaborative robots are all named after stars in the Milky Way galaxy, explains Airbus. The full process, as explained by the Airbus official release, starts off with “Sirius” feeding the individual solar cells into the production line. Next, “Vega” laminates the cells against cosmic radiation, “Capella” welds diodes to the solar cells, “Bellatrix” connects them forming strings, “Antrix” cleans and prepares for adhesion and once this is completed “Rigel” inserts the individual sections into the solar array.
The complete line of robots is now the first fully automated solar-array production facility. The complete process has 60 steps carried out in six stations from an individual cell to a completed solar array. Andreas Vogel, Head of Engineering & Operations at Spacecraft Equipment, commented that the facility “combines automation, robotization, digitalization and artificial intelligence to boost our productivity, quality and cost-efficiency.” This new production line cuts the time spent in solar array production by half. It also reduces costs and a new competitiveness standard.
The array, however, still requires a human touch. Airbus divided tasks between those that could only be handled by machines and those that require people, such as wiring or testing solar panels. “The 18 robots take care of the monotonous and repetitive work, freeing up time for Airbus personnel to focus more on innovations, such as new solar-array designs or the manufacturing of customer parts – far away from the pressures of production. Sirius and the other 17 robots then put these innovations into practice,” said Vogel.
The next step for Airbus is to ramp up production to use the technology in the construction of satellite “constellations.” These constellations, as previously mentioned in an MBN article, could be used to provide affordable and high-speed internet access worldwide. This project requires 650 satellites and to date Airbus has produced two spacecraft a day, a large improvement over the usual 12-18 months required to produce a single satellite by traditional manufacturing methods.