Bombardier turns to automation to cut CSeries assembly time

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Bombardier aims to cut more than 40h from the cycle time joining fuselage sections for the 100- to 149-seat CSeries, with the assistance of six 10.9t robots.

Two of the six robots have already been delivered to the Canadian airframer's Saint-Laurent manufacturing centre, and will assemble the composite aft fuselage and join the cockpit and front fuselage sections, which are 3.7m (12.1ft) in diameter.

"We're adopting and adapting lean, flexible, safe and ergonomically advanced solutions to ensure that the manufacturing process for the CSeries aircraft is fully optimised," said Francois Minville, vice-president, CSeries manufacturing.

The remaining four robots will be located at the company's Mirabel facility to rivet the newly joined cockpit and front fuselage and will join the mid, rear and aft sections into a single nose-to-tail structure, which is completed in roughly 17h.

Bombardier has said its manufacturing capability is being designed to build and deliver as many as 20 CSeries aircraft a month, although the company has not indicated the pace of its initial production ramp-up.

The robots are able to drill, rivet or hammer each fastener to the aluminum-lithium fuselage skin in as little 32s. Drilling, adding sealant and a fastener on composite takes 53s to perform, said Bombardier.

The airframer said the robots can extend to a height of 5.72m, reaching points at the top and bottom of the aircraft.

"The use of advanced robotic technology is emblematic of the clean-sheet approach we've taken to building the CSeries aircraft," said Minville, "The use of the robots will enable us to offer a superior aircraft at the best cost to our operators."

The 10.9t weight is required to anchor each robot, ensuring stability during manufacturing, allowing the robots to "travel the length of the fuselage during production", said Bombardier.

Bombardier fabricates the forward and aft fuselage components of the aircraft, while Shenyang Aircraft of China will supply the aircraft's centre fuselage.

A test barrel developed by Shenyang is being used to train robot operators and maintenance personnel at Saint-Laurent, as well as validate manufacturing concepts.