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May 10, 2019

Radwin, Zinn aim to improve aviation manufacturing through NASA project

Written By: Tom Ziemer

University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering professors Robert Radwin and Michael Zinn are working to improve the efficiency, flexibility and safety of the aviation manufacturing industry as part of a new NASA-funded project.

Radwin, the Duane H. and Dorothy M. Bluemke Professor of industrial engineering, and Zinn, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, are collaborating with computer science professors Bilge Mutlu, the project’s principal investigator, and Michael Gleicher. The UW-Madison researchers will also work with ergonomics engineers from Boeing on the three-year, $3 million grant, which is part of NASA’s University Leadership Initiative.

Aviation manufacturing presents several hurdles to greater automation, such as the complexity of assembly processes and considerable more variation and lower production rates than, say, the automotive industry.

In the project, the team will develop a flexible platform for collaboration between human workers and robots, strengthening ergonomics and safety for technicians and improving efficiency and flexibility in the production process.

“These tools will augment human physical capabilities in consideration of tolerances for forceful exertions, repetitive motions, stressful postures and hand-arm vibration, while capitalizing on exceptional human dexterity, sensory and cognitive capabilities,” the researchers write in their project abstract.