MADISON, AL—Aerobotix Inc. has developed a robotic assembly line that scans, sands, paints and measures complex missile components, thereby achieving critical tolerances required for hypersonic flight.

The process starts with an automated Shape Fidelity Scanner, which records each component's as-built dimensions. This data is then used to generate a custom path to scuff sand each component for optimal coating adhesion.

An explosion-proof paint robot then applies dozens of layers of MINTEQ's FIREX RX-2390 ablative coating that shields the missile structure from the extreme temperatures of hypersonic flight. To make sure the coating is within tolerance, the robot utilizes a non-contact measuring tool to record the wet coating thickness.

"Our robotic process allows us a tolerance of one mil or one thousandth of an inch," says Kent Pfeifer, process engineering manager at Aerobotox. "To put that in perspective, we can essentially spray half the thickness of a sheet of paper consistently across an entire missile. Repeated over dozens of layers, we can achieve a level of accuracy that is physical impossible with the traditional method of spraying by hand."

Aerobotix recently merged with Shape Fidelity and is an an AS9100 certified FANUC robotics integrator and metrology company. Headquartered in Huntsville, AL, it serves the aerospace and defense industries and has more than 130 robotic systems installed in the U.S. and abroad.