Commercial Aircraft Fuselage Panel Handling


Commercial aircraft manufacturers moving to all-composite designs are facing new challenges in building and assembling the large subassemblies. In this application, fuselage panels need to be removed from the transport vehicle, rotated 90 degrees and set into transport dunnage or rotated 180 degrees and staged in temporary storage pogo stands. These panels vary in length (from 35′ to 70′), shape and contour; panel weights range from 750 lbs. to 2,500 lbs. and each panel has unique features such as windows and door cutouts. A single manipulator system was required to handle each of the different panels.


A below-the-hook vacuum lifter was designed to be supported from the existing overhead crane system. Using the radio control, a single operator can attach to each different panel, lift it from the transportation vehicle, rotate either 90 or 180 degrees and place in the dunnage, storage pogo or place it into position during final assembly. PLC logic activates the appropriate vacuum circuits for each panel type; multiple safety systems provide reliable, safe operation in the event of power or component failure. Vacuum cups by Vicas ( provide the compliance needed to handle the various contour changes.