Assembling the world’s most advanced air defense missile requires technological innovation, especially when annual production is set to increase to 500 by 2024. And since failure is not an option, the missiles must undergo rigorous inspection processes before deployment. So how will one of the United States’ largest defense contractors meet demand? Using robots.

And, when aerospace assemblers need robots, they often turn to Aerobotix. Headquartered in Huntsville, AL, Aerobotix develops robotic manufacturing systems for the aerospace and defense industries. The company specializes in creating robotic measuring systems for high-value, high-precision components, aircraft and vehicles. The company has more than 130 robotic systems installed worldwide.

This fully automated robotic system measures the thickness of coatings applied to air defense missiles. Photo courtesy ATI Industrial Automation

Using large FANUC robots and end-effector technology from ATI Industrial Automation, Aerobotix created a fully automated system that measures the thickness of coatings applied to these highly accurate interceptor missiles. The robotic system utilizes three unique end-of-arm tooling (EOAT) systems to complete inspection on the missile, made possible with ATI’s robotic tool changers and tool stands.

The hardware and equipment for the inspection process are quite different from the supplies needed for painting and sanding. However, Aerobotix was able to integrate all three inspection operations into one process with custom-configured QC-210 heavy duty tool changers from ATI. The configuration includes ATI utility modules that pass compressed air, electrical signals and Gigabit Ethernet communications through the tool changer directly to the EOAT.

ATI’s applications team worked closely with Aerobotix to design a tool changing system that will integrate with Aerobotix’s specially engineered end-effectors and that will evolve with customer needs. ATI’s tool changer products increase productivity and flexibility, and with ATI’s utility modules, can be configured for any application. This makes it easy for manufacturers to implement tool changing in a vast range of application environments.

The multi-tasking technology enables the contractor to realize a return on their robot investment at a much higher rate. Because the robots can exchange tools and connect utilities automatically, the contractor can deploy a variety of robotic processes in one cycle. The design keeps utilization high while realizing a more efficient process with higher quality outputs.

For more information on robot tool changers, call ATI at 919-772-0115 or click here.

For more information on robotic manufacturing technology for aerospace applications, call Aerobotix at 256-772-9035 or click here.