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Cordless automated smart drill improves aero-structure production

The MTC designs and manufactures a smart drilling unit, funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), reducing drilling time without stripping down assemblies.

The innovative and compact design is a potential enabler to achieve the holy grail of one-way assembly of aero structures using modular low cost automation. The lightweight and cordless approach presents maximum opportunities to deploy automated assembly across legacy and future aircraft platforms.
Andrew Silcox, Chief Engineer - Aerospace, MTC

The Challenge

Through the MTC’s work in the aero-structure assembly industry and in flagship projects such as LOCOMACHS, the MTC identified an opportunity to develop an automated drilling tool to produce holes currently generated manually using pneumatic hand tools.
This current method of manufacture also requires the non-value added process of the structure being stripped down and all holes de-burred. By enabling one-way assembly and speeding up hole-to-hole drilling times, drastic reductions in the structure assembly process time will be possible.

MTC’s Solution

  • The MTC designed and manufactured a drill unit tailored for use within restricted access areas, either as a handheld device or a robotic end effector.
  • The unit is entirely cordless, with the potential to draw 1000W.
  • The unit was developed in collaboration with MTC members Beckhoff, Siemens and Makita.

The Outcome

  • By reducing the size of the unit whilst maintaining performance, the system can be used within a variety of scenarios including restricted access areas
  • Designed to be low cost, compact and wireless with a tablet interface for enhanced connectivity, improving on current solutions
  • Unit allows smart drilling of multi-material stacks

Benefits to the Client

  • Generates burr-free holes, eliminating the need to strip down and deburr the structure prior to mechanical fastening
  • Adaptive drilling of multi-material stacks to maximise drilling efficiency
  • Advanced connectivity for real-time data acquisition
  • Potential to reduce aerospace structure build time by up to 40%
It was rewarding to develop a prototype drilling unit from the ground up, to solve problems that no commercially available product addresses, and to showcase what can be done with the technology and staff at the MTC.
Richard Kasler,  Principal Engineer, MTC