Drilling and filling robot 'Luise' works on Airbus's new A320 production line in Hamburg, Germany, June 14 2018. Picture: REUTERS
Drilling and filling robot 'Luise' works on Airbus's new A320 production line in Hamburg, Germany, June 14 2018. Picture: REUTERS

Hamburg — European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has inaugurated a new production line for its best-selling A320 jet with robots Luise and Renate joining human workers as it turns to new automation to help it deal with an eight-year order backlog.

The two robots, whose names were chosen by employees, will help to drill more than 2,000 holes to join the two halves of the fuselage together.

Airbus hopes digital technology will enable higher production and trigger a significant shift in research and development spending towards high-tech manufacturing. It is ramping up production of the single-aisle A320 jet, which competes with Boeing’s 737, from 50 to 60 aircraft  a month. Airbus has sold 8,000 of the jets with another 6,000 on order.

The new final assembly line in Hamburg has a top rate of 10 aircraft a month, which it will reach by mid-2019.

The savings from the new technologies are not about time, but about precision and ergonomics, Airbus staff said.

“It’s more efficient when you are not drilling all holes by hand,” Klaus Roewe, head of the A320 family programme,  said in Hamburg, saying that the other new technologies for manoeuvring parts would help to reduce the likelihood of damage or errors.

Roewe said about  one-third of the new technologies on the new final assembly line could potentially be transferred to other lines, whether in existing ones in Hamburg, France, China, or the US.

“The priority is to ramp up and then we will start thinking about what we can transfer,” he said.

Airbus has also extended and modernised its delivery centre for the A320 family in Hamburg as part of plans to help it deal with the production ramp-up.

Reuters

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