A new robotic system to make aircraft painting quicker, cheaper and more environmentally friendly has just made its debut at ZAL Innovation Days. Dutch robotics specialist Xyrec, which has developed the Automated Paint Robot (APR) in collaboration with Airbus and Southwest Research Institute, gave a live demonstration of the system that it says can reduce time in the paint shop from 16 days to 5 days.
The APR is able to print any aircraft livery design on an aircraft fuselage by automatically orienting itself during the painting process. According to Xyrec, the end-to-end painting process can sand the fuselage, clean it after paint has been stripped, spray primer and clear coatings, dry clear coatings in a mere two hours (compared to the 14 hours it currently takes) and then direct print a new design. Xyrec says the cleaning process can also be used for cleaning of aircraft during A and B checks.
Due to the APR’s ability to significantly reduce overall painting time, Xyrec says the robot can reduce labor costs by 80% while also saving up to 30% of paint, which provides environmental benefits. In addition, the company says the robot ensures higher predictability and paint quality.
During the demonstration at ZAL Innovation Days, Xyrec showed off the APR’s newest feature, which uses inkjet technology for digital printing rather than paint. The technology was illustrated by printing a large digital image on an Airbus A320 fuselage. According to the company, the printer technology enables airlines to be more creative with livery designs because it allows intricate decoration of a full aircraft faster and more efficiently than via manual masking and spray guns.
The APR began development three years ago and Xyrec says it will be available commercially in 2020, with a direct print feature coming in 2021.
The APR was not the only robotic technology for aerospace on display at the event, which is held by Hamburg’s ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research. The event also featured a collaborative robot from German startup Synergeticon to help relieve production workers of physically demanding work such as riveting of aircraft roof fuselage segments and news about Airbus collaborating with Helmut Schmidt University on the testing of exoskeletons for use within aircraft production.