Maplesoft tools aid in the development of new aerospace manufacturing technologies - User Case Studies - Maplesoft

User Case Study: Maplesoft tools aid in the development of new aerospace manufacturing technologies

Michel Lambert in the AMTC labs

The aerospace industry is beginning to embrace the gains of robotic automation in their manufacturing processes. Current techniques have remained very manual, and automated processes are treated with some caution. However, research using modern technologies and tools has shown some impressive results.

The Aerospace Manufacturing Technology Centre (AMTC) is a new initiative resulting from a partnership between the National Research Council and Canada Economic Development for Québec regions. Located in Montréal, Canada, the aim of AMTC is to develop modern aerospace manufacturing technologies that have the potential for significant cost savings, while maintaining high levels of quality, reliability, and performance.

The robot problem

Michel Lambert, a researcher at the AMTC, is investigating the use of robotic technologies for automating several aerospace manufacturing tasks that involve contact with the environment.

These tasks include drilling of fuselage and wing parts for assembly, surface finishing tasks like polishing, grinding and machining, as well as metallic panel forming using shot peening. All of these tasks require precise and repeatable motion from the robotic systems, but one major aspect of the design of a robot arm makes this project very difficult.

“The motor drives in the joints of a robot arm have an inherent elasticity,” said Mr. Lambert. “This results in several problems such as unwanted vibrations and drift from the desired path and chatter, thus making it almost impossible to carry out tasks to the precision we need in many cases.”

Maple™ and MapleSim increase precision and speed

A 500kg payload industrial robot is equipped with a drilling and riveting effector for assembly of aircraft panels

The goal of Mr. Lambert’s research is to study the effect of dynamic parameters such as elasticity on robotized contact tasks, and to develop suitable control algorithms that will account for parameters such as removing the elasticity in the joints. To do that, he first developed a high-fidelity model of a 6 degrees-of-freedom robot arm that included the elasticity in the joints. He used MapleSim, the world’s most powerful physical modeling tool, developed by Maplesoft™. MapleSim allowed him to quickly define the layout of a multibody mechanism – rigid beams, flexible beams, and joints – in 2 and 3 dimensions, from which the kinematic and dynamic equations of motion can be extracted. In a very short time, he was able to demonstrate an exact correlation between the predicted behavior from the MapleSim model and a classical model derived from first principles. Thus, the MapleSim model can serve as a reference model for both the actual robot and other analytical models developed in-house.

Now that he has developed the model, he can use the power of Maple to perform analyses, such as stability and sensitivity analysis, find eigenvalues and eigenvectors, and visualize the dynamic behavior of the robot. He will then be able to validate the results of the model with the measured response of the actual robot.

Key benefits

Mr. Lambert has no doubt that the main benefit of using MapleSim and Maple is speed. “Using MapleSim and Maple, I can achieve in a day what would normally take a week to do manually,” he said. “Maple is extremely intuitive and has a great interface. The block-diagram approach is very easy to understand and the tasks document themselves very well. This is particularly useful if I have not been working on the project for some time. I don’t have to spend time trying to remind myself of what I have done. I can simply pick up from where I left off, which improves my own efficiency enormously.”

The work done by Mr. Lambert and the AMTC team is making significant contributions to increase the confidence of the aerospace industry in automated processes. Tools from Maplesoft, such as Maple and MapleSim, are playing an important role in this journey.