Case Study: Fuzzy Logic Helps European Manufacturer Through Robotics

MBDA FuzzyLogic400x275

February 23, 2022

MBDA is a leading European manufacturer in the aerospace and armaments sector, specializing in the design of missiles and missile systems for the operational needs of the three branches of the military (army, navy and air force). MBDA France’s Bourges site specializes in the manufacturing of tactical missile equipment using several key technologies: mechanical manufacturing (metal and composite materials) and electromechanical assembly. 

The company wanted to have robots perform certain processes in small series or even single unit production, by allowing an operator with no programming skills to teach the robotic system in just a few seconds, the process to be carried out, and then execute the cycle with complete confidence without human supervision. Fuzzy Logic Robotics’ Repplix application software module addresses all aspects of this requirement in a cost-effective manner. The first use case selected was the tedious, manual cleaning of the molds used to manufacture composites.

The Bourges site produces numerous small series of 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.

“At MBDA we look for agility when it comes to robotization,” said Vincent Rafin, head of the Factory of the Future project at MBDA. “We want to robotize tasks that 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.”

The company then turned to Meliad, an expert in the aerospace industry for surface preparation and laser stripping, as well as robotics firm Staubli. The robot company recommended Fuzzy Logic for its universal, visual programming solutions.

Fuzzy Logic developed Repplix, an extension of its Fuzzy Studio software, in cooperation with MDBA. 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, can modify the trajectory and process parameters via the graphical interface, even after the learning phase.

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, which 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.

Executed with millimeter precision, the solution can be extended to even more demanding applications in the future, Fuzzy Logic said. 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 using the software and the parametrized alerts.

The time needed to program the mold cleaning operation is slashed from several hours to only a few minutes, Fuzzy Logic said. Productivity is increased by automating the cleaning operation and the risks for the operator are reduced. This makes automating this operation profitable, both in terms of HSE and economics.

“With Repplix, the robot becomes a precision tool in the hands of the operator,” said Ryan Lober, CEO of Fuzzy Logic. “Our solution allows him to automate his task in complete autonomy, without any intervention from a specialist. Repplix is designed to start being used immediately, with no real training required. Our solution allows the robotization of processes where this has previously been impossible. What’s more, we have barely finished the initial application, and already Repplix is being deployed by other users in Europe.”

MBDA said it is working on extending the software to work on other applications, including sandblasting, painting, welding and waterjet cutting. “These applications all have complex trajectories that need to be programmed,” said Nicolas Gautier, robotics technical lead at MBDA. “With conventional tools, we would need highly qualified personnel and a great deal of time, so programming them would be very costly. Fuzzy Logic, with Repplix, has now removed this barrier, which prevented the cost-effective automation of such applications.”

For more details on the Fuzzy Logic Robotics technology, visit its website here.

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