Fanuc and Loop Technology Sign Deal for Largest Robots Ever Ordered in UK

Following on from the announcement last December of our deal with FANUC UK for seven new robots, we are delighted to share some more insight into this spectacular partnership. This deal includes four units of the largest industrial robot ever to be ordered in the UK- the FANUC M-2000iA/1700L!

Three of those 1700L units are to be delivered to the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) at its new innovation facility in South Yorkshire. The inaugural project at the innovation facility is IHSS (Isothermic High-Rate Sustainable Structures) – a Boeing led project alongside Spirit AeroSystems, AMRC and Loop Technology. This groundbreaking venture will drive innovation and production efficiency in composites aircraft manufacturing and includes our cutting-edge automated preforming system, FibreLINE. This deal also includes a FANUC M-2000iA  1200L and a 900L model.

Separately, we will receive another 1700L unit along with a 900L for a FibreLINE system that is destined for North America.

COMPASS facility
COMPASS Groundbreaking Event

Increasing Productivity & Decarbonisation

The new AMRC innovation facility in Sheffield is designed to help drive innovative solutions for composites manufacturing in order to meet future demand for lighter commercial aircraft and help reach net zero targets. The building will be home to cutting-edge equipment secured through a £29.5m grant from the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) to support new capabilities, technologies, and processes that reduces cost, waste, production time and associated carbon emissions.

The five FANUC M-2000iA industrial robots we have ordered for the AMRC facility will be part of a FibreLINE configuration that has FibreFORM at its centre. The system picks composite sheets (plies) and forms them into a variety of profiles and complex 3D double curvature shapes before placing onto a tool, inspecting and heat staking the plies, ensuring the structure is ready for the next stage of the manufacturing process. It does this with millimetric accuracy and at a revolutionary rate of up to 200kg an hour.


Growth Into New Territory

In a seperate project, we have also ordered two further FANUC M-2000iA robots to form part of a FibreLINE system for a key North American aerospace customer looking to carry out R&D applications. This entire FibreLINE system will measure more than 20m in length and will centre around FibreFORM, which weighs more than one tonne, meaning that heavy-duty industrial robots with a high payload and long reach are essential. With a 1.7 tonne payload capacity and 6.2m stroke, the M-2000iA/1700L is the strongest long reach robot in the world and provides maximum flexibility on operations involving large and heavy objects.

“Being aero structures, the parts that are being manufactured on our FibreLINE systems are extremely large,” said Alun Reece, Managing Director of Loop Technology. “These two projects therefore both require robots with high payload and reach capabilities to access all the areas necessary in order to carry out deposition or inspection activities. While we could have used precision gantries to deploy our end effectors, they limit access to the cell area due to requiring two rails on which to carry the gantry bridge. In contrast, the M-2000iA robots are mounted on a single axis rail, providing clear access from one side. They are our clear robot of choice for such projects.”

A Flourishing Partnership

Oliver Selby is Head of Robot Sales for FANUC UK and has worked alongside Loop Technology for several years, helping to increase innovation in the aerospace sector. “We have been proud to have Loop Technology as one of our system integrator partners for the past five years,” he states. “Their solutions, such as the FibreLINE and its constituent parts – FibreFORM (ply manipulation), FibreTACK (ply tacking) and FibreEYE (inspection) – are helping to increase automation uptake among aerospace manufacturers. Given the labour shortage within manufacturing as a whole and the extensive aircraft order backlog, higher levels of automation are essential to increase productivity and ensure the industry continues to thrive in the coming years.”

Alun Reece provided further insight, commenting : “Innovations in robotics around scale, precision and collaborative working are opening up new opportunities for aerospace manufacturers all the time. Whether in high-rate preforming systems, fibre placement, or assembly operations such as drilling, fastening, sealing or automated inspection applications, the versatility offered by modern robotics is redefining the way tasks are performed, helping to drive down aerospace manufacturing costs while driving up quality.”

A truly exciting chapter ahead for robotic aerospace manufacturing and everyone involved in its development!