Robot Tool Calibration System Brings Precision to Aerospace Manufacturing Automation

When aerospace manufacturers deploy industrial robots for process automation, no room for error exists. Tasks such as riveting skin panels and structural components of planes must be done with extreme precision, as a failure to do so can result in expensive rework or scrapping of entire parts. By deploying the TCP (tool center point) system from LEONI Engineering Products & Services (LEPS), aerospace manufacturers can maintain an accurate and precise automation process and avoid costly errors.

Accurate, Precise Measurements

Using a two-channel infrared (880 nm) photoelectric laser sensor pulsed at 2 kHz, the TCP system calibrates tools and fixtures electronically in up to six dimensions (three axes plus angular rotation around each axis) without touching a robot’s end-of-arm tool. The system does this by comparing the path of the robot to its master/reference moves. It records the robot’s path, determines any variation from the original reference, and establishes that the robot has shifted whenever a process changes or the robot requires recalibration.

Aerospace manufacturing involves a lot of riveting — a process that is increasingly being automated with robotics. Here too, accuracy and precision are vitally important. Because of the complexity of the tools involved in such a process, obtaining an accurate initial tool center point can prove difficult.

“With most robot applications, different methods exist for establishing a master tool center point, including moving the tool around a certain point at different angles and using CAD data,” said Jim Reed, vision product manager at LEPS. “Some companies may use laser trackers or metrology devices to measure the tool center point, but the TCP system helps measure and create the initial tool center point at an extremely accurate level, and at much cheaper costs.”

Avoiding Waste

Prior to riveting large, expensive parts together, aerospace manufacturers need to know that their robotic systems will not fail and lead to lost time and sunk costs.

“Our system ensures that tools are in the right spot during assembly,” said Reed. “When riveting plane panels, for example, two pieces must be clamped together and the robot must drill in a precise location to a very specific diameter, and then a rivet can be inserted and compressed.”

He added, “The TCP system verifies — and if needed corrects for — any deviations in the tool, ensuring that the hole for the rivet is created in the right spot.”

Automating aerospace manufacturing processes can help increase throughput and drive revenue, but it requires high levels of precision, and this is where the TCP system comes into play more than anything.

Information on LEPS’ TCP product can be found here.

For questions about LEONI’s TCP system and its capabilities in robotic applications, contact Jim Reed by email at or by phone at 248-766-6844.