Feature Story

Robot Painters

Building one of the world’s most popular commercial airplanes, the Boeing 777, means keeping up with demand. Which has resulted in the 777 program recently increasing their rate of build to 100 airplanes per year. To accommodate the increase, program managers knew they needed a more efficient way to paint the plane’s wings.

Their solution was to build a facility using robots to paint. This system is known as ASM, or Automated Spray Method. It’s a big improvement over the previous method. “We used to have about 35 or 40 painters. And we used about four booths that we worked in, and we had a lot of crane moves in and out. So it was multiple processes and we used about five days worth of flow,” said Christine Shanks, an industrial engineer for the ASM project.

It’s a method that has 777 Director of Manufacturing, Jason Clark very excited, “You're taking a product that took hours, and it literally lasted minutes.”

But speed is not the only benefit. The robots ensure pinpoint accuracy on every wing. And the ability to do multiple tasks simultaneously means a higher quality paint job. “The robot has 2 different guns on it and will apply 2 different paints at two different thicknesses, simultaneously together in as seamless operation so you won’t see the two different coatings,” said ASM Implementation Manager, Ken Brewer.