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02:26 PM, June 28, 2018
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Collaborative robots 'cobots' (Image: BAE Systems)

BAE Systems designed collaborative robots, ‘cobots’ will be tested on the Typhoon production line by the end of the year.

The cobotic workstation – designed to support people with complex manufacturing of combat aircraft- is fitted with a range of digital technology and will be piloted at the company’s Warton, Lancashire site to work alongside manufacturers building high-tech systems for cutting-edge combat aircraft, the company said in a statement Wednesday.

The technologies that have been developed – including operator recognition and a sensor-enabled cobotic arm – will be tested on the Typhoon production line by the end of this year to enhance its manufacturing capabilities to deliver the aircraft of the future.

The introduction of new digitally integrated advanced manufacturing technologies builds on existing investments in robotics and aims to drive further productivity, quality and safety improvements into future combat aircraft programmes. Robotics is already an integral part of BAE Systems’ combat aircraft production line which includes automation, but the integrated sensors that feature in the workstation make this the next step in people safely working directly with robots.

The technology will allow the worker to make strategic decisions while delegating to the cobotic arm repetitive, machine-driven tasks which require consistency.

It will recognise operators and automatically load optimised individual profiles using wireless technology. It will also automatically deliver tailored cues and instructions, suitable for their level of expertise to guide them through practical tasks.

"Cobotics is the next, natural step in developing manufacturing technology that will allow for a blending of skilled roles," said Dave Holmes, Manufacturing Director at BAE Systems’ Air business.

"Through the factory of the future technology, automation will empower employees to work safely at greater speed and with maintained accuracy, leading to increased productivity and quality.”

BAE Systems has collaborated with a number of partners including the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and Siemens who will provide MindSphere software. This software will connect technologies through the workstation and output manufacturing data that will help engineers analyse and improve the advanced manufacturing processes.

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