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Bombardier announces US$665 million CSeries order; will use robots in assembly

Production of new jets will use robots to assemble cockpit and fuselage at Montréal and Mirabel facilities


June 1, 2011
by Canadian Manufacturing Daily Staff

MONTREAL—Bombardier Inc. delivered a better-than-expected financial report Wednesday and announced a US$665 million order for its new CSeries jets.

Net income for the first quarter was US$220 million, which was above analyst expectations.

Revenues lifted to US$4.7 billion, as compared to US$4.3 billion a year ago.

Bombardier booked 77 business jet net orders, up from six a year earlier.

Commercial aircraft deliveries rose to 23 from 16 a year earlier. However, its commercial orders for the quarter totaled a mere five aircraft.

The Montreal-based company announced a firm order for 10 of its CSeries commercial aircraft from Braathens Leasing Ltd., a Swedish leasing company. If all the options are exercised, the Swedish order would have a list price of US$1.37 billion.

With the Braathens deal, Bombardier has firm orders for 100 CSeries planes – 38 CS100s and 62 CS300s.

And the company has moved to improve efficiency, announcing it will use six 12-ton robots in the cockpit and fuselage assembly of its new CSeries aircraft to enhance quality and prevent ergonomic issues. It expects to reduce production time by more than 40 hours.

Until now, Bombardier aircraft were assembled largely by hand. But at a diameter of 3.7 m, the fuselage of the CSeries aircraft is larger than any of the company’s older products, posing ergonomic challenges during assembly.

Joining the fuselage sections of the aircraft by hand would require scaffolding. But the robots extend to a full height of 5.72 m. From their base, they can reach the top and bottom of the aircraft.

Each robot drills a small hole and then precisely rivets or hammers a fastener to the aluminum-lithium fuselage, all in about 30 seconds. For the composite fuselage sections, the process takes 53 seconds to drill, add a sealant and then a fastener.

Four robots assemble the fuselage for a CSeries aircraft in 17 hours. Advanced vision control systems ensure each hole is drilled within one-hundredth of an inch tolerance.

Custom-made platforms will support and move the six robots and will house tooling to perform the work.

Two of the robots have already been delivered to the Saint-Laurent Manufacturing Centre in Montréal, where Bombardier will assemble the carbon-fibre aft fuselage and cockpit for the CSeries. These robots will fuse together the cockpit with a front section of the fuselage and assemble the aft fuselage.

Four more robots are scheduled to be installed at the Mirabel facility where final assembly of the aircrafts will take place. There, the robots will rivet the front section – including the cockpit and the front fuselage – to the mid, rear and aft sections of the plane.

The CSeries aircraft are scheduled to start service in 2013.