Pairing people and machines to boost performance

Greater productivity, quality and flexibility, less arduous work, improved ergonomics: the advantages of using robots on production lines are well known, and they are also deployed in a growing number of industries. Over and above pure automation, a very promising new field has emerged, namely “cobotics”, or collaborative robots. The aerospace industry is especially keen on this approach, because people continue to play a decisive role in our industry. Cobotics allows us to combine the capabilities of a robot (strength, precision, repeatability, etc.) with people’s specific skills (know-how, analysis, decision-making, etc.). The operator and robotic system work together directly or by remote control, or even with an exoskeleton that multiplies the capabilities of the human body.

Operator and robotic system

200+ Robots deployed at Safran (sand blasting, handling, changing tools, visual inspections, etc.)

Innovation in action at Safran

Safran has undertaken an applied research program on cobotics and the human-machine interface since 2014. For example, robotics, ergonomics and cognitive experts team up to develop cobotic concepts, which are tested at ArianeGroup (the new name of Airbus Safran Launchers) to analyze interactions. At the same time, our industrial innovation workshop is testing cobots on several production lines in Group companies, including at two plants in the greater Paris area:

  • Safran Nacelles in Colomiers, for the Silvercrest®, a new-generation business jet engine. Two self-balancing mobile hoist arms are used to move and integrate nacelle components, from the ground to installation on the engine;
  • Safran Helicopter Engines in Buchelay: an articulated arm facilitates material handling and transfer to machines. Fitted with a “claw” and a hoisting hook that can carry 40 kilos, the arm will eventually be used with all compatible workstations.

At Safran Reosc, the Safran Electronics & Defense subsidiary specialized in high-performance optics for astronomy and space, robots are used daily in the production shops because of their reliability and high precision. The Saint-Pierre-du-Perray facility deploys a dozen computer-controlled robots to polish high-performance telescope mirrors, to within a few nanometers.

Quality monitoring and cobotic
The key to zero defects?

Because of their regularity and precision, robots boost production efficiency, while also facilitating quality monitoring. For example, when Safran Aircraft Engines tests CFM56 engines, a robot can systematically process more than 1,000 data points in 20 minutes – compared with the four hours it took a single operator, involving the checks plus taking photos for traceability.