MBDA Le Plessis-Robinson, France
+331 71 54 10 00

MBDA is a European aerospace and armaments manufacturer, specializing in the design of missiles and missile systems for the operational needs of all three branches of the military (Army, Navy and Air Force).

This method of operation is tedious, and it also requires protecting the operator from exposure to toxic substances.

MBDA France's Bourges site produces numerous small composite parts that have to be molded. Each mold is manually stripped clean before being used in production. This operation is complex: the parts to be treated are diverse and numerous and in each series, the level of residue to be stripped off and its location may vary. This method of operation is tedious, and it also requires protecting the operator from exposure to toxic substances.

As Vincent Rafin, Head of the Factory of the Future Project at MBDA explains it: “We want to robotize tasks which cause musculoskeletal disorders in our operators, and which occur in certain cases in the production of very small series or even single parts, so we need to keep the non-recurring costs of programming as low as possible. Programming a robot to define the trajectories of a laser is not the right approach for small series production; it is time-consuming and costly and has to be done by a roboticist.”

For advice, MBDA turned to Meliad, a recognized expert in the aerospace industry for surface preparation and laser stripping, and to Staubli. The latter recommended Fuzzy Logic for its visual programming solutions. Fuzzy Logic developed Repplix™, an extension of its Fuzzy Studio™ software, in cooperation with MBDA. A portable learning device controlled by the operator using his knowledge of the application task teaches the Repplix™ software the first laser alignment. A monitoring function, performed via a real-time digital twin of the robotic installation created in Fuzzy Studio™, takes into account collision monitoring and trajectory feasibility in the robot's environment. Alert parameters are set up. Trajectory capture combines several process parameters such as laser triggering and power. The operator, who is not a roboticist, is also able to modify the trajectory and process parameters via the graphical interface, even after the learning phase.

Then, from this digital twin, the cycle is launched and the robot moves with the laser, guided by the accurate capture of the trajectory learned from the operator. The speed at which the robot operates is set directly in the software and it can differ from the speed in the learning phase. The cycle is performed autonomously by the robot, without the need for operator supervision. The same process, which takes only a few minutes, is done for each new series of molds.

The solution developed in this way is executed with millimeter precision and is capable of extension to even more demanding applications in the future. The manual operation can be reproduced with ease because the learning device is the representation of the real tool and is not directly linked to the robot. The operator manages the execution and planning of the movement himself using the software and the parametrized alerts.

As a result, the time needed to program the mold cleaning operation is slashed from several hours to only a few minutes. Productivity is increased by automating the cleaning operation and the risks for the operator are reduced, making robotizing this operation profitable, both in terms of HSE and economics.

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