Engineers at BAE Systems are set to welcome a cobotic workstation onto the Typhoon production line as part of a pilot scheme being run at the company’s site in Warton, Lancashire.
Technologies developed for the cobotic workstation will be tested on production line by the end of 2018.
Key features of the cobotic workstation include operator recognition, a digital training passport, the cobotic arm, and light-assisted assembly.
For operator recognition, the workstation will use wireless sensors to identify each worker and tailor the working experience accordingly, whilst the digital training passport will remember each worker’s level of expertise, training history and user permissions.
It is anticipated that human workers on the line will make strategic decisions while delegating repetitive, machine-driven tasks to the cobotic arm, and light-assisted assembly will prompt users to correct components and consumables with pick by light technology.
Dave Holmes, manufacturing director at BAE Systems’ Air business, said: “We’ve only really started to scratch the surface of what automation can do in industry and some really exciting possibilities are emerging as we enter the fourth industrial revolution.
“Cobotics is the next, natural step in developing manufacturing technology that will allow for a blending of skilled roles. We envisage that people will make larger, more strategic decisions while delegating the repetitive and intricate aspects of production to a robot.
“Through the factory of the future technology, automation will empower employees to work safely at greater speed and with maintained accuracy, leading to increased productivity and quality.”
BAE Systems has collaborated with a number of partners including the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and Siemens who will provide MindSphere software. This software will connect technologies through the workstation and output manufacturing data that will help engineers analyse and improve the advanced manufacturing processes.
The cobotic workstation is part of BAE Systems’ plans to further incorporate and integrate manufacturing technologies into the workplace, such as reconfigurable, multifunction technology, 3D printing, augmented reality and manufacturing autonomy.