Safran Aircraft Engines performs parts of the manufacturing and final assembly of the LEAP engine in its historic Villaroche plant. This cutting-edge industrial activity takes full advantage of the value of digitization thanks to the operations assistance, inspection and traceability solutions developed by Diota.
Entered successively on the Airbus A320neo in 2016 and in 2017 on the Boeing 737MAX and successfully passing the stages of its certification on the COMAC C919, the LEAP engine is already establishing itself as the benchmark in the single-aisle aircraft with more than 100 passengers. This latest-generation turbojet, jointly developed by the French Safran Aircraft Engines and the American GE through their CFM International joint venture, shows the fastest commercial progress ever recorded for a new engine in the history of aeronautics!
Towards a new industrial model
This unprecedented commercial progression requires the two partners to successfully transition to this new engine model and ramp up production without compromising the reputation for reliability that made the previous generation of CFM engines.
Safran devotes a significant part of the capacity of its historic Villaroche site to LEAP, which has been installed since 1947 about fifty kilometres from Paris. This is where the engine manufacturer designs and manufactures several key engine components such as the blower or the exhaust nozzle. There he also proceeds with the final assembly of the LEAP according to the exact configuration chosen by the aircraft manufacturer customer.
Safran Aircraft Engines has already demonstrated its capacity to produce around 2,000 engines per year. To achieve this, the company has undertaken an extensive project to modernize its industrial equipment. Some workstations in its new assembly lines are, for example, capable of turning the engines around themselves to facilitate the intervention of operators. In this context characterized by a double requirement for quality and productivity, Safran technicians can rely on the support of the assembly and inspection assistance solutions developed by Diota.
Assembly assistance and compliance control in augmented reality
On production lines, operators benefit from assistance that guides them through the various assembly stages. The latter, represented by intuitive and smart digital work instructions, makes it possible to visualize the exact location and position planned for each part until its fitting. The operator can thus constantly compare the tasks performed with the expected as defined in the digital model.
Useful for improving the skills of technicians, this assistance module is coupled with a section dedicated to compliance control. Once the part has been installed or its connection has been made, the operator checks that its support is correctly mounted in accordance with the instructions received. The software records its validation for traceability purposes.
Automated problem detection assistance
On other workstations, the Digital-assisted Operator solution developed by Diota enables automated detection of any compliance problems. This is the case when preparing assembly operations for the high-pressure engine body, manufactured by General Electrics, and the “fan” part, produced by Safran Aircraft Engines. At this stage, the engine is installed on a fixed support. Across from this station, another operator must follow a precise path of various electrical harnesses, making sure not to forget any connection.
To achieve this task, the operator benefits from augmented reality assistance that accurately indicates each connection. During particular stages of the process, the Defect Detection Assistance module automatically controls operations. As soon as an element seems missing or incorrectly positioned, the software signals a problem to call for manual verification. Via its interface, the operator confirms or denies the presence of an anomaly. The validation process will lead to the automatic capture of a time-stamped photo, including the precise reference of the engine and the parts concerned. Safran Aircraft Engines thus has full visibility of the inspection operations that have been carried out.
Cobot for automated control
At the very end of the assembly line, Safran Aircraft Engines applies a cobotic system that is collaborating with the inspector responsible for quality inspection. It relies on the Digital-based Robotics for Inspection solution developed by Diota to compare the assembled engine with the digital mock-up as a reference. There is no need for special programming of the robot to achieve a program for a verification sequence. The quality control manager only needs to select the different control points on the model so that the cobot can automatically carry out the inspections (absence or presence of a part, orientation of an element, etc.). Behind the scenes, Diota’s software generates the path for the cobotic system containing a multitude of camera viewpoints adapted to the requested inspection sequence. Deployed in partnership with Actemium Toulouse Robotics & Automation, this cobotic system currently operates on 11 different gantry cranes and can perform up to 250 individual controls per hour.
The digital mock-up at the heart of a virtuous process
At each of these stages, Diota creates a direct connection between the digital model which represents the design elements of the engine and the operators who work on the production or assembly lines. This continuous connection is applied in both directions. Initially, the information descends from the digital model to the operator to guide him during his field operations, reducing the risk of errors, improving productivity, and promoting skill development. In reverse, the digital mock-up and the accompanying documentation are enhanced by data reported by the operators and their cobot assistant for each control operation.
At the same time, DiotaAnalytics aggregates and analyzes the resulting data in order to extract information that can be directly provided to the engine manufacturer. Safran thus benefits from a continuous flow of information which facilitates decision-making and optimizes operations. In the following process managers will be able to rely on the statistical analysis of incident reports to adapt the instructions provided to operators. Field information and analysis studies will thus jointly contribute to quality assurance in a true logic of continuous improvement.