Title:
Automated method and apparatus for aircraft surface finishing
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An improved method and automated apparatus provides for the automated surface finishing of aircraft panels, which includes a central controller, a universal shuttle for transporting aircraft panels, scanning means and a panel surface processor moveable about a plurality of axes to present a plurality of surface finishing tools to act upon the panel is disclosed herein.



Inventors:
Kennerknecht, Steven (Laval, CA)
Fortin, Serge (Mirabel, CA)
Application Number:
09/731979
Publication Date:
06/13/2002
Filing Date:
12/08/2000
Assignee:
KENNERKNECHT STEVEN
FORTIN SERGE
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B24B19/26; B24B27/00; B24B49/00; B64F5/00; (IPC1-7): B24B49/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
SHAKERI, HADI
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
McFadden, Fincham (Ottawa, ON, CA)
Claims:

We claim:



1. An automated apparatus for surface finishing of aircraft panels comprising retaining means for retaining a panel to be processed; surface panel processing means for acting on a panel retained by said retaining means, said surface processing means being movable about a plurality of axes relative to said panel to present said processing means to act on the surface contour of said panel; means for effecting relative movement between said retaining means and said surface processing means; and control means for controlling said surface panel processing means in combination with said means for effecting relative movement.

2. In a method of surface finishing of an aircraft panel comprising providing an aircraft panel to be surface finished; mounting said panel in a fixed position; providing finishing means for surface finishing said panel; effecting relative movement between said finishing means and said mounted panel, the improvement wherein said method includes the steps of detecting surface anomalies in said panel; generating a data-input control signal based on said surface anomalies; and generating a data output control signal to actuate said finishing means to act on said anomalies.

3. A method according to claim 2, wherein said improvement includes the steps of scanning a defined area of said panel with scanning means to generate said data input control signal relative to said surface anomalies, and generating an output control signal to actuate and control said finishing means whereby said finishing means is actuated to correct said surface anomalies.

4. A method according to claim 2, wherein said improvement includes the step of generating a first control signal relative to different locations of anomalies on said panel, said output control signal being adapted to control relative movement between said finishing means and said mounted panel for positioning said finishing means at different locations about said panel.

5. A device according to claim 1, wherein said apparatus includes scanning means.

6. A device according to claim 5, wherein said scanning means includes temperature measuring means.

7. A device according to claim 5, wherein said scanning means includes acoustic measuring means.

8. A device according to claim 5, wherein said scanning means includes optical measuring means.

9. A device according to claim 8, wherein said optical measuring means includes a laser.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to an improved automated method and apparatus for finishing aircraft panel surfaces and more particularly to an improved automated method of aircraft surface finishing for aircraft wings and fuselage.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Conventional surface finishing of aircraft panels, such as fuselage and wing panels is typically accomplished through manual sanding, polishing and other related processes. Traditional machining and forming processes include creep forming, hot forming, break forming, stretch forming, shot peen forming and super elastic forming which typically require surface improvement techniques in order to remove burrs, parting lines, scratches, tool marks and the like in order to reduce surface roughness.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

[0003] In a first preferred embodiment according to the present invention, there is provided an apparatus for surface finishing of aircraft panels comprising a retaining means for retaining a panel to be processed, a surface panel processing means for acting on a panel retained by the retaining means, the surface processing means being movable about a plurality of axes relative to the panel to present the processing means to act on the surface contour of the panel, means for effecting relative movement between the retaining means and the surface processing means and control means for controlling said surface panel processing means in combination with said means for effecting relative movement.

[0004] In another embodiment according to the above, wherein the device further includes scanning means.

[0005] In another embodiment having the above structures, the scanning means includes panel scanning means to for scanning for surface anomalies, wherein the scanning means is adapted to generate an output control signal to actuate and control the surface finishing means whereby the finishing means is actuated to correct the surface anomalies.

[0006] In another embodiment according to any of the above structures, there is provided means to generate a first control signal relative to different locations of anomalies on the panel, the output control signal being adapted to control relative movement between the finishing means and the mounted panel for positioning the finishing means at different locations about the panel.

[0007] In a second embodiment according to the present invention, there is provided an improvement in a method of surface finishing of an aircraft panel comprising providing an aircraft panel to be surface finished, mounting the panel in a fixed position, providing finishing means for surface finishing the panel, effecting relative movement between the finishing means and the mounted panel, in which the improvement includes the steps of detecting surface anomalies in the panel, generating a data-input control signal based on the surface anomalies; and generating a data output control signal to actuate the finishing means to act on the anomalies.

[0008] In another embodiment, there is provided a method according to the above wherein the improvement includes the steps of scanning a defined area of the panel with scanning means to generate the data input control signal relative to the surface anomalies, and generating an output control signal to actuate and control the finishing means whereby the finishing means is actuated to correct the surface anomalies.

[0009] In another embodiment there is provided a method according to any of the above methods wherein the improvement includes the step of generating a first control signal relative to different locations of anomalies on the panel, the output control signal being adapted to control relative movement between the finishing means and the mounted panel for positioning the finishing means at different locations about the panel.

[0010] In any ofthe above embodiments, suitable scanning means and control means are utilized as are known in the field.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011] FIG. 1 is a side perspective view of an automated surface finishing device according to one embodiment of the present invention.

[0012] FIG. 2 is a perspective view from one end of an alternative arrangement of a preferred embodiment showing the device in use, and

[0013] FIG. 3 is a flowchart illustrating the central controller processes.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0014] With reference to the drawing figures, there is illustrated a preferred form of a device for the automated surface finishing of aircraft panels depicted generally by reference numeral 10. The device includes a controller 20, a universal shuttle 30, a scanning device 40 and a robotic surface processor 50.

[0015] In a preferred embodiment, the device includes a controller or programmable control means 20 housed in a conventional housing. Desirably, the controller utilizes programmable logic controllers which are adapted to control all machine components such as motor speed, part position surface finish pre and post sanding, trolley speed or shuttle speed and the like.

[0016] In a preferred embodiment, the device 10 includes a universal shuttle tool 30 adapted to position and retain in position an aircraft panel or parts 100 to present a surface of the panel 100 to be finished by the surface processor or robot 50. Universal shuttle tool 30 preferably includes a trolley or the like including retaining means such as conventional grips 32 or locking members adapted to support an aircraft panel 100. The retaining means such as a grip device 32 are adapted to hold various sized and shaped panels or parts 100 providing mechanical support and presenting the component to the surface processing robot or manipulator. The universal shuttle 30 typically moves laterally in front of the robot although the aircraft panel may be held by the shuttle 30 in a stationary position thus requiring the robot to move laterally.

[0017] The scanning device or sensor means 40 as illustrated in FIG. 1, that may be a moveable or stationary sensor or scanner is adapted to allow for the passage of the part or panel 100 through the sensor or scanner 40 to verify the panel geometry. Such a sensor or scanner would typically include a laser or other suitable scanning device to scan the surface to detect surface anomalies and generate a data-input signal to the controller 20, which can then generate a data output signal in order to guide the robot 50 and associated end effector tools to act on the anomalies.

[0018] Surface finish sensors or scanning means 40 would, in a preferred embodiment, desirably include sensors or the like that are able to pole or measure panel or part 100 skin surfaces in a real time fashion over the cord width ofthe panels 100. Desirably, such measurement is accomplished pre and post sanding as the part or panel 100 enters and or leaves the device 10. Most desirably, the sensors or scanner mean 40 would generate output data via which the controller 20 would adjust the tools 80 associated with end effector 60 accordingly to the set recipe and limits for each part or panel 100. Additionally, graphical reporting may be effected for pre and post panel surface roughness.

[0019] The robot or surface processor 50 according to the present invention may be, in one embodiment, a computer controlled robot able to sense, grip and move objects. The robot or surface processor 50 is controlled via the controller 20 which allows the surface processor to accomplish numerous functions. According to a preferred embodiment, the surface processor or robot 50 includes a first arm member 52, pivot means 53, a second arm 54 having at one end an end effector 60, and tool means or end effector tool 80.

[0020] Tools 80 can include, but are not limited to, surface finishing tools, such as sanding heads and associated drives for sanding and buffing heads, i.e. electrical motors or the like. Control of the head or tool 80 pressure on the part or panel 100 will be dictated by sensor means 40 adapted to provide sufficient pressure.

[0021] The robot or surface processor 50 is adapted to move about in a plurality of axes with respect to the panel 100 thereby allowing the end effector 60 and the tool means 80 to act upon the entire surface contour of the panel 100. The robot or surface processor 50 is adapted to use and automatically exchange a plurality of tools 80 mounted to the end effector 60, such as sanding and polishing tools, and apply the abrasive materials of the tools 80 to the panel surface for material removal as appropriate.

[0022] In use, the robot end effector 60 follows the contour of the panel through programming derived from the controller 20 and initially from the scanner 40. Desirably, this information is derived from a CAD panel or parts geometry data, on-line scanning data and or an operator teach mode of a specific panel geometry. Control of the end effector 60 may involve feedback and control of data and relevant information, including displacement, speed, force and other associated variables. These variables are derived from the scanner or sensor means 40 passed to the controller 20 through any suitable conventional means.

[0023] In use, the panel or part 100 is connected to and supported by the universal shuttle 30 and associated gripping or locking means 32. The operator or automated controller co-ordinates all surface processor or robot 50 movements and part or panel 100 movements ,and establishes feedback with scanning devices 40 for pre and post processing panel geometry, surface finish, temperature and the like information. The information is processed and the appropriate tool, for example a sanding head, is selected and placed onto the end effector 60 for use on the surface contour of the panel 100. The robot or processor means then presents the end effector 60 and tool head 80 to the panel surface 100 for material removal. The robot 50 may select a pre-determined tool 80 to act on the surface contour of the part or panel 100. Sensor or scanner means 40 measure surface roughness, temperature and the like of the panel or part 100 during material removal and establishes feedback of data which thus permits the robot 50 to present select tools 80 to improve surface finish.

[0024] In an alternative embodiment as illustrated in FIG. 2, there is provided a device 200 according to this invention which includes a controller 220, panel support members 230 and 232, a scanning device 240, and a surface processor or robot 250 including an end effector 260.

[0025] As illustrated in FIG. 2, the panel or part 200 is positioned on supports 230. Supports 230 are adapted to maintain the panel 200 in a position suitable for the surface processor 250 to effectively present the end effector 260 and tools 280 onto the surface of the panel 200 for material removal. A controller 220 is adapted to control the movement of all panel or parts 200, robot 250 and end effector tools 280 by establishing or conforming the programmed panel geometry and guiding robot 250.

[0026] The robot 250 may be mounted onto tracks 300 or the like in order to allow the robot to travel along the length of the part 200. Supports 320 or the like are provided and controlled by the controller 220. The robot or surface processor 250 includes an end effector 260 having an end effector tool 280 adapted for surface finishing of the panel surface.

[0027] In an alternative embodiment, sensor means 240 may include the use of temperature sensors or scanners to monitor part or panel 200 temperature during material removal, and optical acoustic and laser sensors to measure surface roughness of the panel or part 200 before and or after processing. As shown in FIG. 2, the sensors 240 may be mounted on the robot arm 254. A central controller 220 and operator interface is used to coordinate all part 100 and robot 250, and end effector tool 280 movements.

[0028] In a further alternative embodiment, the controller 220 allows for operator input for part identification and processing requirements, and establish feedback with scanning devices for geometry, temperature, surface finish and the like whereby the panel geometry is verified suitable scanning devices to establish or conform the programmed panel geometry and guide the robot 250 and effector tools 280.

[0029] In various alternatives embodiments, sensor means 40 may be adapted to include a range of scanners and sensors, such as for measuring temperature. In use, temperature sensing means would be able to interpret, report graphically and adjust itself in real time fashion so that temperatures of the part or panel 1000 where a contact with a sanding head 80 occurs does not surpass the critical temperature of the material and set points entered within a specific part recipe, such as set forth in CAAI-FAA requirements, having ranges are between 50 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

[0030] In another alternative embodiment, additional robots or surface processors may be positioned within the device 10 to surface finish both sides of the panel 100 or 200 with specialized tools, and in tandem to speed part or panel 100 or 200 throughput.

[0031] In a further alternative embodiment, head pressure may be controlled through air pressure or other like drive means.

[0032] In various versions according to the present invention, the device 10 may include dust containment and removal means for integral dust generated through panel surface finishing operations in a manner as would be readily understood by a person skilled in the art.

[0033] In various embodiments, the aircraft panel 100 or 200 to be finished includes conventional aircraft panels, wings, fuselage and the like.

[0034] Although embodiments of the invention have been described above, it is not limited thereto and it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that numerous modifications form part of the present invention insofar as they do not depart from the spirit, nature and scope of the claimed and described invention.