The prize-winning machine, known as “ROPTALMU”, consists of a light portable robot whose purpose is to drill holes with a high degree of precision in large aeronautical components, such as aircraft wing spars, during the assembly stage. The FATRONIK-Tecnalia representative responsible for collecting the award was Projects and Marketing Manager Hugo Martinez de Lahidalga, who pointed out that “we are dealing with a robot that puts into practice the innovative skills of FATRONIK-Tecnalia, in terms of both the integration of technologies and of a cooperative model”.
The main innovative aspect of FATRONIK-Tecnalia’s robot lies in its mobility, as it makes it possible for an aircraft component that is being worked on to remain in its place, fixed to its tool holder, whilst the robot moves over the part. Because the machine is portable, the transfer of large-scale parts and tool holders within the manufacturing plant can be avoided, which provides it with a great advantage when compared to traditional heavy machines fixed to the floor. “The Roptalmu robot opens up many possibilities, and not just within aeronautics; it can also find applications in a wide field that takes in the renewable energy, shipping and construction sectors… We are talking about areas where the elements being handled are of large dimensions”, Martínez de Lahidalga explained.
The ROPTALMU robot project was jointly developed by FATRONIK-Tecnalia and Airbus España, in a shared risk relationship, where both bodies share the prototype development costs. The next step consists of manufacturing the robot industrially. The two companies are currently involved in conversations with various manufacturers with a view to establishing agreements. Hugo Martinez de Lahidalga expresses optimism in this regard because “this is a machine that arouses interest within different sectors, as there is a tendency within the field of industrialisation to seek out flexible non-dedicated equipment that is able to efficiently adapt to manufacturing flows and processes”.
The system developed by the Industrial Systems Unit at FATRONIK-Tecnalia had to compete for the Strategic Manufacturing Awards 2008 with creations from companies of such standing as SAP, Bombardier, HP, Rockwell and Procter & Gamble, within the innovation category, which was sponsored by Microsoft.
Technically speaking, ROPTALMU is made up of an automatic mobile platform and a 3-axis drilling robot. In addition to its innovative characteristics, the jury took into account that the robot markedly improves productivity by cutting down on time and costs. Normally, large-scale aeronautical parts require hundreds or thousands of drill holes for their assembly, which are traditionally executed manually or by semi-automatic tools. The FATRONIK-Tecnalia robot manages to do this automatically and, moreover, improves working conditions and safety for employees in the aeronautical industry.
The Strategic Manufacturing Awards form part of the European Manufacturing Strategies Summit, which is attended by managers from the highest-standing international companies. Taking part in this company are production managers from some of the most important companies in the world, representing different sectors that include Bombardier, Microsoft, Rockwell, Coca-Cola, Fujifilm, Avon Cosmetics, Henkel, Kraft, Michelin and Nestlé.
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