Mitsubishi Electric, the Hatfield-based robot and automation supplier, has become a Technology Partner to Sheffield University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) which it set up with Boeing.
The AMRC is a research facility which develops technology solutions for materials forming and manufacturing. Sheffield and Boeing have both made use of its resources.
Aircraft manufacture is still highly manual and labour intensive, one of the factors which has contributed to Boeing struggling to meet demand for its A737, a problem it could potentially also face delivering the 787 Super Jumbo.
According to Mitsubishi, its automation systems and robots could help reduce human error and improve accuracy, repeatability and traceability, and help manufacturers meet increasingly stringent standards from the Federal Aviation Authority.
Jon Sumner, a technology specialist with Mitsubishi, said that a direct technology transfer from the automotive industry would not be possible. ‘Because production volumes are relatively low and customisation is common, we have to develop flexible automation systems which can perform multiple tasks and be re-deployed at various stages of the build programme.’
Mitsubishi claim this makes robots a suitable technology as they are adaptable, can be retooled and reprogrammed for different tasks and fitted with feedback technology such as vision systems.