Developed as a response to the Airbus A350 XWB long-range, twin-engine, wide-body jetliner, the Boeing 777X family of jetliners is expected to debut in 2020. The fuselage of the 777X wide-body calls for an impressive 60,000 fasteners—all of which are currently installed by hand. However, to meet the already-placed firm orders from Lufthansa, Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Cathay Pacific by the declared delivery date, Boeing needed to automate its riveting system.
To create this new robotic riveting system, Boeing enlisted the expertise of Augsburg, Germany-based KUKA Systems. The collaborative effort resulted in a system dubbed the Fuselage Automatic Upright Built (FAUB) consisting of KUKA-produced robots to quickly and precisely install the thousands of fasteners needed for each aircraft. Equipped with end effectors, the KUKA robots will work on the aft and forward sections of the 777X.
With its North American headquarters located in Sterling Heights, Michigan, KUKA Systems has already lent its automation know-how to a number of high-profile industry programs. In 2012, the German firm developed the manufacturing line for the world’s first fly-by-wire commercial helicopter—the Bell 525 Relentless medium-lift utility helicopter. In 2009, KUKA Systems created the Integrated Assembly Line system for Northrop Grumman’s F-35 Lightning II single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole fighter under a contract valued at over USD$100 million.
For the fiscal year 2013, KUKA Systems boasted USD$1.4 billion in revenue and employed a 3,900-strong global workforce.
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