CLINTON TOWNSHIP, MI-Kuka Robotics Corp., a manufacturer of industrial robots, announces a new consortium with five other automation companies to develop new flexible manufacturing processes for the aerospace industry. The consortium was formed to address the industry's need to reduce time-to-production cycles and capital expenditures by developing a new production model that will include new generations of flexible robots, sensors and intelligent fixturing. Composite Systems (Arnold, CA) will be responsible for the overall program management and systems integration. Other involved companies include Programming Plus (New Berlin, WI), New River Kinematics (Williamsburg, VA), Faro Technologies (Lake Mary, FL), EOA Systems (Carrollton, TX) and Weber Screwdrivers (Yorktown Heights, NY). The consortium's initial focus will be on airframes and aerospace structures for commercial aircraft.

"Our customers are demanding lower capital costs, reduced time-to-market and more flexibility in operations, and this consortium has a clear vision on how to implement flexible automation to deliver these benefits," says Mike Beaupre, director new markets for Kuka Robotics Corp.

The companies are working with aerospace manufacturers to identify key programs that would benefit from their new data-driven approach to robotic manufacturing in aerospace. Early emphasis is being given to drilling and riveting operations, since, historically, these have been both labor and tolling intensive applications.

"We believe robotic and sensor technology is at a crossover point, and can now supplement traditional hard-tooled manufacturing in a wide range of high-tolerance aerospace applications," Beaupre says.