Jul 02 2008

Variation Reduction Solutions, Inc. Selects Dassault Systèmes’ DELMIA Robotics for F-35 JSF Project

Automated System Being Developed for Inlet Duct Drilling

Auburn Hills, Mich., USA, July 2, 2008 – Dassault Systèmes (Nasdaq: DASTY; Euronext Paris: #13065, DSY.PA), a world leader in 3D and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), announced today that Variation Reduction Solutions, Inc. (VRSI) has selected DELMIA robotics solution for use in the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Guided Robots and Robotic Applications in Confined Spaces project.  VRSI has received an AFRL Small Business Innovative Research grant to develop a vision-guided automated solution for drilling inlet ducts in the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) center fuselage, being manufactured by Northrop Grumman Corporation.

Currently, the air inlet duct is integrated with the fuselage by attaching aluminum frames to the composite duct via mechanical fasteners.  Each duct is about nine feet long, yet only 20 inches in internal diameter. Despite the ergonomically challenging space constraints, the operation is done manually and requires the drilling and countersinking of 800 holes per duct.

“The DELMIA robotics simulation solution will allow us to produce feasibility studies to determine how many of the holes the robot arm can reach,” said Brett Bordyn, director of technical development, VRSI. “Without this simulation tool, we would not be able to properly configure and program a robot to handle such a difficult process.”

Bordyn explained that each of the 800 drilling points has a unique safe-radius area and that the DELMIA solution allows VRSI to create multiple collision and near-miss queues to ensure collision free robot trajectories within the confined duct space.  It is expected that the automated drilling solution will reduce the frame attachment process flow time by 50 percent.

Working with TechniGraphics, a global PLM services provider and a DELMIA channel partner, VRSI selected the DELMIA robotics solution for its cable simulation, GSL script language, and offline programming capabilities, which save significant production floor programming time. DELMIA has also been contracted to provide the necessary on-site training.

“We are excited to be a part of the Joint Strike Fighter program,” said James Cleveland, vice president and general manager of PLM at TechniGraphics.  “Driving innovation in the aerospace industry through PLM solutions is one of the hallmarks of our partnership with Dassault Systemes. We support their cutting-edge software and by performing legacy CAD conversions, our customers can utilize their entire engineering repository within modern design environments.”

The prototype system, expected to be delivered mid-2008, will rely upon a vision-guided Fanuc Series 2000/125L robot to enter the narrow duct opening.  A laser tracking system will then help locate the correct positioning within a very narrow tolerance of each hole in order to perform the robotic drilling operation. A laser inspection process is then performed to evaluate the quality of each hole.

Over the following year, the prototype will then be developed into a production inlet duct robotic drilling system. It is anticipated to receive shop floor certification in the summer of 2009 and be complete by end of 2009 for use in the aircraft build.