Bell Helicopter contacted Vector Automation about some projects regarding the V-22 Osprey program. One project was the heat treating of the planetary gears used on the V-22 Osprey and the other was the sandblasting of the V-22 Osprey planetary gears after heat treat.
The first automation project that Vector Automation did was the heat treat project for the planetary gears. The specification stated that the planetary gear had to be transferred from the heat treat oven to the oil quince sequence within a 10 second time frame.
At the time of the project start up the rejection rate was 100 percent. It was taking Bell Helicopter minutes to make this transition.
Vector Automation’s solution was to use a robot versus a man to do this task. One big problem with using a robot was that the robot had to reach inside the rotary hearth furnace to get the planetary gear. Using a standard robot to do this task would not work due to the robot having to go inside the furnace for a period of time.
Vector Automation’s solution was to make a robotic end or arm tool set that could be attached to the end of the robots arm that could take the heat. Vector’s solution was to coat the end of arm tooling with a ceramic coating that would reflect the heat while reaching into the furnace to get the gear set.
This was successful and the project was put into production. Cycle times were meet and the project was a success. Rejects rates for that part of the production cycle went from 100 percent to zero percent.
The next project related to the same gear set was the sandblasting of the planetary gears after heat treat. This was done by hand prior to the introduction of robotic sandblasting. Reject rates from hand sandblasting were very high due to gear erosion from the sand blasting process.
Vector Automation built and installed a robotic sand blasting station for Bell Helicopter. The robot was programmed using the lead thru teach process. The robot had a teach pendant on the end of axis number six which allowed the employee to move the robot as if they were doing the sandblasting themselves. The robot had a sand blast nozzle on the end of axis six. This solved the problems with over sand blasting the gear set and taking it out of dimensional spec due to over sandblasting the part.