TORONTO—Lockheed Martin recently completed a project to evaluate the automation of airframe manufacturing operations using six-axis robots equipped with artificial intelligence technology from Canadian tech startup Xaba.

Xaba and Lockheed Martin identified a use case involving a typical robotic work cell found in any aerospace assembly plant to test how Xaba’s xCognition “synthetic brain” could give a robot greater intelligence and understanding of its body and the task it is about to execute.

The test consisted of two phases. Phase 1 assessed the robot’s performance in maintaining accurate and consistent trajectory positioning with and without Xaba’s xCognition. In Phase 2, the robot performed a set of drilling tests on an aluminum test plate with specified positional tolerances.

The test data showed that xCognition improved the accuracy and consistency of the robot by a factor of 10 times. The test shows how robots augmented with xCognition can perform crucial manufacturing operations that until now have been done exclusively by more expensive and less flexible CNC machines.

“The accuracy performance of a robotic system limits the type of process it can perform based on the cost-efficiency of the accuracy hardware,” says Matthew Galla, applications engineer for Lockheed’s aeronautics business. “The test with the xCognition controller allows us to rethink how we can accelerate innovation in manufacturing.”

Historically, accurate drilling was accomplished either with expensive static machine tools or it was done manually by skilled operators. Using robots or collaborative robots instead would be more appealing, because they are more flexible and less costly than CNC machine tools. 

However, robots have struggled to perform critical operations, such as drilling, laser welding, light machining and precision assembly. The reason for this is the lack of intelligence required to deliver accuracy, repeatability, and to work in path programming mode rather than point-to-point. The xCognition AI-driven control system solves this problem.

“Our xCognition AI-driven control system opens a new world of application opportunities for industrial robots and cobots,” says Massimiliano Moruzzi, CEO of Xaba. “It positions Xaba at the center of intelligent automation for sustainable manufacturing.”

Unlike analytical AI used for predictive modeling, industrial AI focuses on the physical world. It can model and drive a vehicle, a complex machining center, and more complex industrial applications. Xaba’s xCognition technology integrates seamlessly with every commercial robotics brand to make them more consistent, robust and autonomous.

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