Aerobotix and FerRobotics have developed a robotic tool for the precise application of masking tape

Aerobotix and FerRobotics have developed a robotic tool for the precise application of masking tape

Aerobotics And the viroboticsTwo robotics companies based in the US and Austria, respectively, have teamed up on a new solution in response to the aerospace industry’s demand for an automated tool for precise masking tape application.

The collaboration between engineers from the two companies has led to the revolutionary development of End of Arm Instrumentation (EOAT).

After months of prototyping and testing during the pandemic, a new Active Taping Kit (ATK) is complete, with FerRobotics’ patented Active Compliant Technology (ACT) enabling the robot to apply varying pressure when applying tape to an aircraft.

The tool allows for different parts to be masked in the shape and lays exactly straight lines to tape where the customer needs them.

“Customers have been asking Aerobotix to automate the masking process for years,” says Chris Kolb, Vice President of Sales for Aerobotix.

The response was always, “Wouldn’t that be cool?” “But the technology required to do it right was not yet available. The FerRobotics ACT device allows the robot to ‘feel’ the part and instantly adjust pressure to apply the tape. We needed that sensitivity to put the masking tape down properly and not damage high-value parts.”

FerRobotics ATK is a leading example of Industry 4.0, featuring unparalleled technology, with precise control over all single process parameters – contact force, cutoff, and tape consumption. The ready-to-use solution provides a robot-compatible sensor strip application plus all the benefits of ACT system collaboration.

“ATK offers the highest quality process from a single source, in a compact and light design,” says Dr. Ronald Nader, founder and CEO of FerRobotics.

“It is extremely durable and designed to apply different types of tapes to any part or surface with precise repeatability and without bubbles or wrinkles. This joint venture with Aerobotix resulted in an innovative product that should perfectly meet customer needs.”

ATK exceeds expectations for accuracy and reliability when tested at Aerobotix’s in-house Operations Laboratory – a facility that houses a range of automated systems used to paint, cure, sand and inspect products for aerospace and defense customers.

ATK’s automated masking process is expected to revolutionize the paint process and is already being tested on many aircraft.

This international project was funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), led by Dr. Carl Lombard, Materials Research Engineer.

The scientific research organization recognized the potential value in the EOAT concept and assessed that stopping manufacturing during a pandemic provided a good opportunity to support development and testing.

In addition, Dr. Lombard’s exposure to software where manual concealment affects costs and delivery schedules made him and AFRL the right fit to financially support the development of this new solution.

“We jokingly call it our pandemic baby,” says Kent Pfeiffer, Aerobotix’s director of process engineering who led the US team for the project.

“Both companies had some extra bandwidth during the pandemic disruptions, and because AFRL had some funding to back us up, we just did it. We run all kinds of masking tapes through ATK, and so far, they’re all working great.

“What we didn’t realize going into this was that having the robot make the first lines of duct tape saves painters a lot of time and errors, as they don’t then have to measure or use templates to get the exact lines of tape. The savings, in time and costs, outweigh all Our expectations.

In November, ATK was honored as one of only five projects nominated for the Econovius Prize, a special award under the Austrian National Innovation Prize. Successful candidates were selected from over 400 entries.

The Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economics presents the ANI Award annually to encourage companies to develop innovative products that contribute to the country’s economic growth.

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