Bombardier on 3 November briefly opened the Global 7000 assembly line to journalists, showcasing a revitalised facility with “game-changing” manufacturing technology for the business aviation market.
Bombardier hired aviation automation specialist Electroimpact to implement a modern manufacturing make-over of Bay 10, now the home of the Global 7000 and 8000. The Global 5000 and 6000 continue to be assembled on bays 2 and 4 of Bombardier’s factory complex near Toronto’s Downsview airport.
The facility now features a five-position assembly line devised for pulsed moves and emphasising technology that can eliminate some of the variables involved in assembling a $71 million twinjet.
The technology starts at the first first assembly position where two wings are joined to the centre wing box. An automated positioning system uses laser tracker feedback that computes the exact location of the contours of each assembly, allowing a human operator to move the sections into position with much greater accuracy.
Electroimpact also automated the movement of completed assemblies from one position to another. Instead of lifting the structures by crane, a robotic train called the Aircraft Transportation Linear Activation System (ATLAS) carries the completed wing assembly into the second position.
Here the wings are mated to the centre fuselage, following by joining the forward fuselage and aft fuselage to the centre. Electroimpact is also automating this step with robotic systems more commonly found in the high-volume production systems of commercial airliners. Two robots – nicknamed Drillby and Drillbert – are currently used to circumferentially drill and deburr the thousands of holes required to rivet and fasten the metallic sections together.
Bombardier next plans to use the robots to drill and deburr the wing-to-fuselage mate assembly. But the real challenge will come later. The company’s goals is to use the robots to also automatically rivet and fasten the major fuselage sections together. That requires developing a complementary robotic “bucking” system, with a robot stationed on the aircraft interior to apply back pressure as the external robot sinks the fasteners. Boeing is rolling out such technology with the 777X programme, but Bombardier is unaware of any attempt to push automation so far in the business aviation market outside the Global 7000 programme.
Bombardier declines to say how much such automation advances will improve production capacity or flow times, as compared to the current system used for the Global 5000 and 6000.
But the technology proved itself in the construction of the first two flight test aircraft, which are now in advanced stages of structural assembly, says Michel Ouelette, senior vice-president of Global 7000 and Global 8000 programmes.