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TP14PUB24

Automated Drilling/Countersinking of
Composite/Titanium Materials One Shot
author
GEORGE N. BULLEN, FSME, CPIM
President/CEO
Smart Blades, Inc.
Oxnard, CA

abstract
The paper and presentation describe the end effector and algorithms specifically designed
for automated drilling and countersinking of finished holes in one shot for insertion of
fasteners on airframes. The other components of on-assembly drilling and countersinking,
such as controllers, software, and machine hardware and mode of operation, derive from
mature technologies that have been well documented, presented, and published. Rarely
have the operational components, their relationship to the workpiece, and the sequence of
commands necessary to acquire and successfully perform the drill and countersink operation
been presented or published, due to proprietary and intellectual property concerns.

terms
Composites, Titanium, Drilling, Countersinking, End effector, Dissimilar materials, Stacked
composites

conference
AeroDef Manufacturing Summit & Exposition 2014
SME
February 25-27, 2014
Long Beach, CA

SME TECHNICAL PAPERS


This Technical Paper may not be reproduced in whole or in part in
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service or information discussed herein, nor offers any
technical advice. SME specifically disclaims any warranty of
reliability or safety of any of the information contained herein.

SME Technical Paper TP14PUB24

Automated drilling and countersinking of composite


titanium material stacks one shot.
All things are difficult before they are easy. Thomas Fuller

Abstract

This paper will describe in detail the machine end effector physical components,
algorithm including subroutines, drill set lengths, speeds and feeds necessary to drill through
complex material stacks of varying thickness one shot. The presentation will provide the
necessary data and information including pecking subroutines, chip removal, and drill types to
successfully drill close tolerance holes with diameters from .187 inch (4.75 mm) to .500 inch
(12.7 mm) with tolerance of -.000 to +.001 inch (-.000 mm to .025 mm) through stacks of
dissimilar material of up to 1.25 inch thick including complex material stacks of composite
(GFE)-titanium-composite (GFE).

Introduction
On-assembly automated drilling and countersinking is the application of specialized
Numeric Control (NC) machinery into the manufacturing process to drill and countersink a
finished hole one shot for insertion of the fasteners that holds the airframe together. Applying
automation replaces the traditional hand methods for drilling and countersinking.
There can be well over 100,000 holes that need to be drilled and countersunk in a modern
military fighter/attack airframe and more than 2,000,000 in a large commercial airframe. Large
commercial and military airframes can exceed 3 million holes. The number of holes and the
hand method for drilling and countersinking drives cost, quality, schedule, complexity, and
safety. Sixty-five percent of the cost of airframe assembly is derived from drilling and
countersinking holes by hand. Eighty-five percent of the quality issues and eighty percent of the
lost time injuries are the result of the hand process for drilling and countersinking. (Bullen, 2013)
This paper will focus on the end effector and algorithms specifically designed for the
automated drilling and countersinking of airframes. The other components of on-assembly
drilling and countersinking such as controllers, software, and machine hardware and mode of
operation derive from mature technologies that have been well documented, presented and
published. Rarely have the operational components, their relationship to the work-piece, and the
sequence of commands necessary to acquire and successfully perform the drill and countersink
operation been presented or published. This is because of proprietary and intellectual property
concerns of the machine originators and operators to maintain a perceived or real competitive
position.

End Effector
Once the machine motion is established an action must be performed to accomplish the
drill and countersinking operations. The actions necessary to carry out all the operations
associated with drilling and countersinking a hole are performed by an end effector.
Parts are combined to form assemblies. They are held in position by tools while holes are
drilled and countersunk. Fasteners of differing types are installed into the holes. The assembly
then becomes a stand-alone component of the airplane. Skin thickness in metallic parts is very
uniform as a product of its manufacturing method. Skins made with composite materials vary in
thickness based on the number of plies that are used in their fabrication. A .375 inch (9.53

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Millimeter) thick part can vary


from .345 inch (8.76 millimeter)
to .405 inch (10.29 millimeter),
with thickness variability
increasing in proportion to the
part thickness. Therefore the end
effector must be designed to
closely replicate the actions of the
hand operation by sensing the
variability of the part thickness
and compressing (compaction)
the pieces of the assembly
together. Sensing the precise skin
surface location is an essential
part of the end effector design and
Figure 1 End effector with pressure foot closed

operation.
The end effector performs
a complex set of actions that are
coordinated to successfully drill
and countersink a hole. An end
effectors functions must be
packaged small enough to access
holes in and around structure and
to minimize weight that adds to
deflection at the tool tip. Actions
that the end effector performs
include holding the tool that
drills and countersinks, vacuum
Figure 2 End effector with pressure foot open
to collect dust, sensors to
determine over-limits, scales to
provide feedback, a pressure-foot to compress the work-piece, and a coolant distribution system.
Figure 1 shows an end effector used for drilling and countersinking holes on airframe assemblies
with the pressure foot closed and figure 2 shows an end effector with the pressure foot open to
facilitate a tool change.

Size

The access required to acquire as many holes as possible places design pressures on end
effector engineers. In many cases, the end effector must be designed small enough to fit into
tight spaces. And minimizing size also provides more flexibility and freedom when moving in
and around parts, tooling, and obstructions. The design requires size minimization while
including all the attributes necessary to carry out the requirements of drilling and countersinking.
Included in the design requirements are the hole evaluation requirements to maintain continuous
speeds and controlled feeds through the material designated for the end effector.
The speeds and feeds regime the end effector must perform are high speed to low speed
and high torque. While minimizing size, the design engineer must also provide a strong enough
motor to supply continuous power and torque to the spindle for the stacked materials it drills and

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countersinks. This includes high speeds and feeds for drilling through composites and low
speeds with high torque when used for drilling through titanium and steel. The positional
accuracy and diameter requirements for holes drive the requirement for a motor that can sustain
operations without degrading performance or accuracy due to heat.

Capability

The capability of the end effector includes a quill that feeds out and is integrated with a
pressure foot attached to a measurement device that provides feedback to the controller. As the
quill is fed out, the pressure foot advances and touches the structure. Upon touching the
structure the scale reader/linear encoder (figure 3) is compressed alerting the controller to spin
the motor and begin the drill countersink routine for that position. The mechanical detection of
linear movement is done by a front guided push rod with inside spring return device. To reach
high accuracy the push rod is guided with precise sleeve bearings. The precise sleeve bearings
are placed inside the shaft. On the push rod an accurate glass scale is mounted. Inside the sensor
housing the glass scale passes an electronic board with optical detector which generates counting
pulses. Due to the glass material the measurement is very temperature stable. The scale
continues to send signals to the controller as it progresses through the material stacks changing
speed and feed rates as different materials are
encountered. In addition, the scale feedback
mechanism alerts the controller to activate a
pecking routine to clear chips. A pecking routine
drills through material to a specified depth and
rapidly retracts so that the drill is clear of the hole
to clear chips as the result of drilling. Once the
chip is cleared the drill reenters the hole and
begins drilling at a point just short of where it left
off before retraction. This is to compensate for
drill pressure deflection of the combined workpieces and prevents impact when the drill
Figure 3 Linear encoder with glass scale
returns to re-engage the remaining material.
While not as glamorous as all the other
capabilities of the end effector, it also includes a lighting component for illuminating the workpiece during operation.

Pressure Foot

The pressure foot is the finger that touches the surface of the part. The pressure foot
performs several functions. It is a vibration-absorbing mechanism of an automated drill and
countersink machine having a shock to mitigate communications of vibrations to the drill tool,
while simultaneously dampening the vibrations at their source, in order to increase control of the
drill tool during drilling and countersinking operations. (Bullen, 2001). The pressure foot of the
end effector is upwardly or outwardly rotatable to access the drill tool to the chuck.
The pressure foot also has a pneumatically or hydraulically pressurized cylinder to
facilitate pressure against the part and substructure to minimize separation.
The end effector must be designed as to allow airflow in and around the spindle for chip
evacuation. The end effector when installed is a precision removable (for maintenance) part of
the machine where its length is coordinated with the scale feedback system.

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Tool holders come in different configurations and sizes. Precision tool holders are used
to clamp the tool bit and countersink. They are inserted into the machine and their size is
dependent on the size of the end effector and the size of the drill they will hold. The tool holders
are preset in the tool setup cribs to a precise depth to insure the correct activation of speeds and
feeds as the machine progresses through the material stacks. The drill tip is set in relationship to
the surface of the pressure foot. The countersink is also set in relationship to the pressure foot
surface. This is done to ensure the machine knows when it has touched the surface of the
product, precisely how far it is before the drill impacts the product.

Algorithm
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (July 1, 1646 November 14, 1716) was a German
mathematician and philosopher. He occupies a prominent place in the history of mathematics and
the history of philosophy. Leibniz developed the infinitesimal calculus independently of Isaac
Newton, and Leibniz's mathematical notation has been widely used ever since it was published.
He became one of the most prolific inventors in the field of mechanical calculators. He also
refined the binary number system, which is at the foundation of virtually all digital computers.
By most accounts he is the father of the modern algorithm.
The use of the algorithm in automated drilling and countersinking is best described by
David Berlinski as A finite procedure, written in a fixed symbolic vocabulary, governed by
precise instructions, moving in discrete steps, 1, 2, 3, . . ., whose execution requires no insight,
cleverness, intuition, intelligence, or perspicuity, and that sooner or later comes to an end.
(Berlinski, 2001)
In this paper I have reduced the drill and countersinking algorithms to narrative for
clarity. I have also added a model of one algorithm (Figure 4) to provide a visual representation
to the narrative. There are variables associated with drill and countersink algorithm application
such as drill bit types, coolant application, and hole diameter. Also, algorithms as defined by
Berlinski are absolutes that are aggravated by the variability of the assembled airframe and
dissimilar materials. Therefore before activating the drilling algorithm a sensitivity analysis is
integrated into the process to acquire the surface of the work-piece to be drilled as a precursor
to the drill bit engaging the material of the airframe. Finding and quantifying the location of the
work-piece surface is the first step for every hole to be drilled by automated systems.

Drill (Same Material)


Position Motion (X,Y,Z,I,J,K)

Position vector normal to surface.


DRILL ROUTINE (ALGORITHM) SAME MATERIAL

Signal start ((Locks-out four axis motion (X,Y,A,B) mechanical and software))

Approach skin (Machine 5th Axis)

Pressure foot compression window achieved 25/10000 = .003 (.076 millimeter)


Internal position set at 0 = -.003 (-.076 mm) from pressure foot front surface to drill tip.
Drill tip offset .250 (6.35 mm) to front surface of pressure foot.

Lock fifth-axis (mechanical and software)

Activate spindle RPM (4000), mister, vacuum, and approach skin (spindle) at 1.5 IPM
(38.1 MMPM).

Drill hole @ constant speed one shot.

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Hole should exit backside of material .100 inch (.2.54 mm) past the end of the drill tip.
Calculation for exit criteria should be engineering material thickness plus six percent to
account for variability.
Dwell .5 second.
Return spindle to zero position. Turn off spindle and mister.
Unlock fifth axis
Return fifth axis to tracking position.
Dwell .5 seconds and turn off vacuum.
Signal operation complete (Unlocks machine four-axis of motion).

Figure 4 Drill routine model (composite/composite or composite/aluminum)

Drill & Countersink (Composite/Titanium Stack)


Position Motion (X,Y,Z,I,J,K)

Position vector normal to surface.


DRILL/COUNTERSINK ROUTINE (ALGORITHM) COMPOSITE/TITANIUM WITH PECK

Signal start (Locks-out machine four-axis of motion)

Approach skin (Machine 5th Axis)

Pressure foot compression window achieved 25/10000 = .003 (.076 millimeter)


Internal position set at 0 = -.003 (-.076 mm) from pressure foot front surface to drill tip.
Drill tip offset .250 (6.35 mm) to front surface of pressure foot.

Lock fifth-axis (mechanical and software)

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Activate spindle RPM (4000), mister, vacuum and approach skin at 1.5 IPM (38.1
MMPM).

Drill hole one-shot in composite material.


Reduce speed and feed at low end of composite material stack tolerance.
Example: thickness -6% (1 inch reduce speed at .940 inch drill penetration). ( 25.4 mm
reduce speed at 23.876 mm drill penetration)
Continue drilling at reduced speed (450 RPM titanium) and feed IPM through
remaining composite material.
Continue drilling into titanium at lower IPM and RPM to end of drill tip

Rapid retract spindle to zero set point

Rapid return (into hole) to last end point minus .050 inch (1.27 mm).
This action compensates for drill pressure caused spring-back that reduces bumping)

Continue drilling at titanium IPM and RPM for .100 to .150 inch (2.54 to 3.81 mm)

Rapid retract spindle to zero set point

Rapid return (into hole) to last end point minus .050 inch (1.27 mm).

Continue peck drilling at titanium IPM and RPM for .100 to .150 inch (2.54 to 3.81 mm)

Continue process until drill exits backside of titanium material .100 inch (.2.54 mm) past
the end of the drill tip.
Calculation for exit criteria should be engineering material thickness plus six percent to
account for variability.

Rapid to preset countersink transition tip

Slow spindle to countersink specified RPM and IPM.

Complete countersink to depth.

Dwell .5 second.
Dwell cleans up residue and polishes countersink.

Return spindle to zero position. Turn off spindle and mister.

Unlock fifth axis

Return fifth axis to tracking position.

Dwell .5 seconds and turn off vacuum.

Signal operation complete (Unlocks machine four-axis of motion).


DRILL/COUNTERSINK ROUTINE (ALGORITHM) COMPOSITE/TITANIUM/COMPOSITE WITH PECK

Signal start (Locks-out machine four-axis of motion)

Approach skin (Machine 5th Axis)

Pressure foot compression window achieved 25/10000 = .003 (.076 millimeter)


Internal position set at 0 = -.003 (-.076 mm) from pressure foot front surface to drill tip.
Drill tip offset .250 (6.35 mm) to front surface of pressure foot.

Lock fifth-axis (mechanical and software)

Activate spindle RPM (4000), mister, vacuum and approach skin at 1.5 IPM (38.1
MMPM).

Drill hole one-shot in composite material.


Reduce speed and feed at low end of composite material stack tolerance.
Example: thickness -6% (1 inch reduce speed at .940 inch drill penetration). ( 25.4 mm
reduce speed at 23.876 mm drill penetration)

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Continue drilling at reduced speed (450 RPM titanium) and feed IPM through
remaining composite material.
Continue drilling into titanium at lower IPM and RPM to end of drill tip
Rapid retract spindle to zero set point
Rapid return (into hole) to last end point minus .050 inch (1.27 mm).
This action compensates for drill pressure caused spring-back that reduces bumping)
Continue peck drilling at titanium IPM and RPM for .100 to .150 inch (2.54 to 3.81 mm)
Continue process until drill exits backside of material .100 inch (.2.54 mm) until
engineering defined thickness for first composite/titanium stack.
Calculation for stack criteria should be engineering material thickness plus six percent to
account for variability.
Continue drilling through titanium into composite material to end of drill tip.
Increase spindle speed to RPM (4000) at 1.5 IPM (38.1 MMPM).
Drill hole @ constant speed one shot.
Hole should exit backside of material .100 inch (.2.54 mm) past the end of the drill tip.
Rapid to preset countersink transition tip
Slow spindle to countersink specified RPM and IPM.
Complete countersink to depth.
Dwell .5 second.
Dwell cleans up residue and polishes countersink.
Return spindle to zero position. Turn off spindle and mister.
Unlock fifth axis
Return fifth axis to tracking position.
Dwell .5 seconds and turn off vacuum.
Signal operation complete (Unlocks machine four-axis of motion).

Summary
While every other aspect of airplane manufacturing was taking advantage of the advances
in computer controlled machine technology, until recently airframe assembly resisted the move
away from hand processes such as drilling and countersinking. There were many reasons for the
resistance to remove the mechanic from the airframe assembly process. The mechanic had the
touch, sight, and ability to adjust and adapt to the variability of the complex array of very
expensive work-pieces placed together and held during the drilling, countersinking, and
fastening operations. The ability of the mechanic to place their tools directly against the skin of
the assembly, feel the resistance change when the drill bit went through one material into the
other, and continually check and adjust the tools of their trade gave them the advantage. The use
of a countersink cage that could be normalized to the surface and reapplied if additional depth
was needed added to the challenge to automate the process.
The encoder sensitizes the pressure foot and enables the machine to identify the location
of the skin and dampen vibration to provide data for precision drilling of one shot holes.
Replicating the ability to identify the location of the skin in relationship to the drill tip
was an essential first step to automating the process. Drilling holes through stacks of material
where the substrate material is harder than the surface material such as in a composite skin over a
titanium bulkhead was a bigger challenge. The harder sharpened chip is drawn through the

SME Technical Paper TP14PUB24

softer composite material and can tear and open the hole in the skin to an unacceptable
dimension. The precise pecking routine described in this paper solves the problem with very
little or no difference in the diameter of the outer composite skin and the composite understructure.
Countersinking became the final challenge to automating the drilling and countersinking
process and added a level of complexity that still frustrates a level of success that drilling by
machine or robot has realized. The challenges are derived from many sources including detritus
residue left from the previous hole that underlies the pressure foot and defeats its ability to
contact the skin. The pressure foot radius is often greater than the span between holes leaving
overlaps of debris reminiscent of a Venn diagram. The residue thickness sends a false signal to
the controller for depth control resulting in progressively shallow countersinks as the residue
accumulates. In the hand operation the mechanic simply wiped away the residue from the
previous countersink and cleaned the surface of the countersink cage before each hole was
countersunk.
Many solutions have been designed, tested, and transitioned to production with varying
success. The ability of the machine to provide a near depth countersink still provides economic
value as shallow countersinks can be touched-up by the mechanic to account for fastener
variability and shallow machine made countersunk holes.
The end effector attributes, functionality, and operation as directed by the appropriate
algorithm described in this paper are valid operational elements necessary to complete the onassembly drilling and countersinking of airframes.

References
Bullen G.N. Automated/Mechanized Drilling and Countersinking of Airframes. SAE
International, Warrendale, PA, 2013. ISBN: 976-0-7680-7646-2.
Bullen, George N., Vibration-absorbing end effector of an automated drill and countersink
machine, US Patent number: 6231280, Filing date: Aug 10, 199I. Issue date: May 15, 2001.
Berlinski D. The Advent of the Algorithm: The 300-Year Journey from an Idea to the Computer.
Harvest Books, New York, 2001. ISBN: 0-15-601391-6.
Damer, T. D. Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments (3rd.
ed.). Wadsworth Publishing, Belmont, CA. 1995, pp. 131. ISBN 978-0-534-21750-1. OCLC
30319422.

Figure Captions
Figure 1 End Effector (example)-pressure foot closed (Courtesy of M Torres).
Figure 2 End Effector (example)-pressure foot open (Courtesy of M Torres).
Figure 3 Linear encoder (example)
Figure 4 Drill routine algorithm model (composite/similar material) (Bullen, 2013)

SME Technical Paper TP14PUB24

Key Terms & Definitions


Algorithm: A finite procedure, written in a fixed symbolic vocabulary, governed by precise
instructions, moving in discrete steps, 1, 2, 3, . . ., whose execution requires no insight,
cleverness, intuition, intelligence, or perspicuity, and that sooner or later comes to an end.
(Berlinski, 2001)
End Effector: An end effector is a device or tool that's connected to the end of a robot arm
where the hand would be. The end effector is the part of the robot or machine that interacts with
the environment. The structure of an end effector and the nature of the programming and
hardware that drives it depend on the task the robot will be performing.
One Shot: One shot means drilling a finished hole in a single operation without pilot holes or
tool changes. The hand method of drilling and countersinking requires multiple steps and tool
changes. (Bullen, 2013)
Peck: Peck drilling involves plunging the drill part way through the work-piece, no more than
five times the diameter of the drill, and then retracting it to or beyond the surface to remove the
chips.

Author

George N. Bullen is the author of the recently released book titled, Automated/Mechanized
Drilling and Countersinking of Airframes. He is a Fellow of SME and Certified in Production and
Inventory Management (CPIM). He has written more than 100 articles that have been published in
magazines and peer-reviewed journals on airframe assembly, automation, robotics, and composites
fabrication. George retired from Northrop Grumman Corporation in 2011 as Principal Engineer,
Technical fellow, Technical Expert for Advanced Programs and Manufacturing Technology
Development. He is now President and CEO of Smart Blades Inc. located in Oxnard, California.

Presentation slides follow.

!ERO$EFManufacturing Summit & Exposition 2014


&EBRUARY   ,ONG"EACH #!

!UTOMATED$RILLING#OUNTERSINKINGOF
#OMPOSITE4ITANIUM-ATERIALS3TACKS/NE3HOT
'EORGE."ULLEN &3-% #0)0RESIDENT#%/ 3MART"LADES )NC
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0ROVIDENECESSARYDATAANDINFORMATIONINCLUDINGPECKING
SUBROUTINES CHIPREMOVAL ANDDRILLTYPESTOSUCCESSFULLYDRILLCLOSE
TOLERANCEHOLES
!LGORITHMSINCLUDINGSUBROUTINES DRILLSETLENGTHS SPEEDSANDFEEDS
NECESSARYTODRILLTHROUGHCOMPLEXMATERIALSTACKSOFVARYING
THICKNESShONESHOTv
4HEMACHINEENDEFFECTORPHYSICALCOMPONENTS

+EY 4ERMS
!LGORITHM!FINITEPROCEDURE WRITTENINAFIXEDSYMBOLICVOCABULARY GOVERNED
BYPRECISEINSTRUCTIONS MOVINGINDISCRETESTEPS     WHOSEEXECUTION
REQUIRESNOINSIGHT CLEVERNESS INTUITION INTELLIGENCE ORPERSPICUITY ANDTHAT
SOONERORLATERCOMESTOANEND"ERLINSKI 
%ND%FFECTOR!NENDEFFECTORISADEVICEORTOOLTHATgSCONNECTEDTOTHEENDOFA
ROBOTARMWHERETHEHANDWOULDBE4HEENDEFFECTORISTHEPARTOFTHEROBOTOR
MACHINETHATINTERACTSWITHTHEENVIRONMENT4HESTRUCTUREOFANENDEFFECTORAND
THENATUREOFTHEPROGRAMMINGANDHARDWARETHATDRIVESITDEPENDONTHETASKTHE
ROBOTWILLBEPERFORMING
/NE3HOT/NESHOTMEANSDRILLINGAFINISHEDHOLEINASINGLEOPERATIONWITHOUT
PILOTHOLESORTOOLCHANGES4HEHANDMETHODOFDRILLINGANDCOUNTERSINKING
REQUIRESMULTIPLESTEPSANDTOOLCHANGES"ULLEN 
0ECK0ECKDRILLINGINVOLVESPLUNGINGTHEDRILLPARTWAYTHROUGHTHEWORK PIECE
NOMORETHANFIVETIMESTHEDIAMETEROFTHEDRILL ANDTHENRETRACTINGITTOOR
BEYONDTHESURFACETOREMOVETHECHIPS

)NTRODUCTION
/N ASSEMBLYAUTOMATEDDRILLINGANDCOUNTERSINKINGISTHEAPPLICATION
OFSPECIALIZED.UMERIC#ONTROL.# MACHINERYINTOTHEMANUFACTURING
PROCESSTODRILLANDCOUNTERSINKAFINISHEDHOLEhONESHOTv
(OLESAREDRILLEDANDCOUNTERSUNKTOENABLEINSERTIONOFTHEFASTENERS
THATHOLDSTHEAIRFRAMETOGETHER
!PPLYINGAUTOMATIONREPLACESTHETRADITIONALHANDMETHODSFORDRILLINGAND
COUNTERSINKING

4HE%ND%FFECTOR
/NCETHEMACHINEMOTIONISESTABLISHED ANACTIONMUSTBEPERFORMEDTO
ACCOMPLISHTHEDRILLANDCOUNTERSINKINGOPERATIONS
4HEACTIONSNECESSARYTOCARRYOUTALLTHEOPERATIONSASSOCIATEDWITH
DRILLINGANDCOUNTERSINKINGAHOLEAREPERFORMEDBYANENDEFFECTOR

4HE%ND%FFECTOR
2EPLACINGTHE(UMAN!TTRIBUTES

4HE%ND%FFECTOR
The end effector must be
designed to closely replicate the
actions of the hand operation by
sensing the variability of the part
thickness and compressing
(compaction) the pieces of the
assembly together.

Sensing the precise skin


surface location is an essential
part of the end effector design
and operation.

The Goal: One-shot drill and countersink


The Challenge(s)

Drill-countersinking bits
Pressure foot
Chip & debris extraction

From the surface


From the hole (peck drilling)

Substructure alignment (Edge Distance)


Surface measurement
Surface normal
Obstructions
Access
Hole Definition (Engineering)
Reduced flexibility

4HE%ND%FFECTOR
The end effector performs a complex set of actions that
are coordinated to successfully drill and countersink a
hole.
An end effectors functions must be packaged small
enough to access holes in and around structure and to
minimize weight that adds to deflection at the tool tip.
Actions that the end effector performs include holding the
tool that drills/countersinks, vacuum to collect dust,
sensors to determine over-limits, scales to provide
feedback, a pressure-foot to compress the work-piece,
and a coolant distribution system.

4HE%ND%FFECTOR
SIZE
The access required to acquire
as many holes as possible
places design pressures on
end effector engineers.
While minimizing size, the
design engineer must also
provide a strong enough motor
to supply continuous power and
torque to the spindle for the
stacked materials it drills and
countersinks.

4HE%ND%FFECTOR
#APABILITY
As the quill is fed out, the pressure foot
advances and touches the structure.
Upon touching the structure the scale
reader/linear encoder is compressed
alerting the controller to spin the motor
and begin the drill countersink routine
for that position.

4HE%ND%FFECTOR
Linear encoder with glass scale
The mechanical detection of linear movement is
done by a front guided push rod with inside spring
return device.
To reach high accuracy the push rod is guided
with precise sleeve bearings. The precise sleeve
bearings are placed inside the shaft.

4HE%ND%FFECTOR
Linear encoder with glass scale
On the push rod an accurate glass scale is mounted.
Inside the sensor housing the glass scale passes an
electronic board with optical detector ThAT generates
counting pulses.
Due to the glass material the measurement is
very temperature stable.
The scale continues to send signals to the controller as it
progresses through the material stacks changing speed
and feed rates as different materials are encountered.

4HE%ND%FFECTOR
Pressure Foot
The pressure foot is the finger that touches the surface of
the part.
The pressure foot performs several functions.
It is a vibration-absorbing mechanism of an automated drill
and countersink machine having a shock to mitigate
communications of vibrations to the drill tool, while
simultaneously dampening the vibrations at their source, in
order to increase control of the drill tool during drilling and
countersinking operations. (Bullen, 2001).

4HE%ND%FFECTOR
The pressure foot of the end effector is upwardly or
outwardly rotatable to access the drill tool to the chuck.
The pressure foot also has a pneumatically or hydraulically
pressurized cylinder to facilitate pressure against the part
and substructure to minimize separation.
The end effector must be designed as to allow airflow in
and around the spindle for chip evacuation.
The end effector when installed is a precision
removable (for maintenance) part of the machine where
its length is coordinated with the scale feedback system.

Machine Types: End Effectors


1. Replace the End Effector (Early Efforts)
2. Replace the drill (Current)

MTorres

MTorres

!LGORITHM
!FINITEPROCEDURE WRITTENINAFIXEDSYMBOLICVOCABULARY GOVERNEDBY
PRECISEINSTRUCTIONS MOVINGINDISCRETESTEPS     WHOSE
EXECUTIONREQUIRESNOINSIGHT CLEVERNESS INTUITION INTELLIGENCE OR
PERSPICUITY ANDTHATSOONERORLATERCOMESTOANEND"ERLINSKI 
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz
(July 1, 1646 November 14,
1716) was a German
mathematician and philosopher.
By most accounts he is the
father of the modern algorithm.

Algorithm

!LGORITHM
For this presentation, I have reduced the drill and countersinking algorithms
to narrative for clarity.
I have also added a model of one algorithm to provide a visual representation to
the narrative..
There are variables associated with drill and countersink algorithm application
such as drill bit types, coolant application, and hole diameter.
Also, algorithms as defined by Berlinski are absolutes that are aggravated by the
variability of the assembled airframe and dissimilar materials.
Therefore before activating the drilling algorithm a sensitivity analysis is
integrated into the algorithmic process to acquire the surface of the workpiece
to be drilled as a precursor to the drill bit engaging the material of the airframe.
Finding and quantifying the location of the workpiece surface is the first
step for every hole to be drilled by automated systems.

!LGORITHM
Drill (Same Material)
Position Motion (X,Y,Z,I,J,K)
Position vector normal to surface.
DRILL ROUTINE (ALGORITHM) SAME MATERIAL
Signal start ((Locks-out four axis motion (X,Y,A,B) mechanical and
software))
Approach skin (Machine 5th Axis)
Pressure foot compression window achieved 25/10000 = .003 (.076
millimeter)
Internal position set at 0 = -.003 (-.076 mm) from pressure foot front
surface to drill tip.
Drill tip offset .250 (6.35 mm) to front surface of pressure foot.
Lock fifth-axis (mechanical and software)
Activate spindle RPM (4000), mister, vacuum, and approach skin
(spindle) at 1.5 IPM (38.1 MMPM).

!LGORITHM
Drill (Same Material) Continued
Drill hole @ constant speed one shot.
Hole should exit backside of material .100 inch (.2.54 mm) past
the end of the drill tip.
Calculation for exit criteria should be engineering material
thickness plus six percent to account for variability.
Dwell .5 second.
Return spindle to zero position. Turn off spindle and mister.
Unlock fifth axis
Return fifth axis to tracking position.
Dwell .5 seconds and turn off vacuum.
Signal operation complete (Unlocks machine four-axis of
motion).

!LGORITHM
Drill routine model (composite/composite orCOMPOSITEALUMINUM 

!LGORITHM
Drill & Countersink (Composite/Titanium Stack)
Position Motion (X,Y,Z,I,J,K)
Position vector normal to surface.
DRILL/COUNTERSINK ROUTINE (ALGORITHM)
COMPOSITE/TITANIUM WITH PECK
Signal start (Locks-out machine four-axis of motion)
Approach skin (Machine 5th Axis)
Pressure foot compression window achieved 25/10000 = .003
(.076 millimeter)
Internal position set at 0 = -.003 (-.076 mm) from pressure foot front
surface to drill tip.
Drill tip offset .250 (6.35 mm) to front surface of pressure foot.
Lock fifth-axis (mechanical and software)
Activate spindle RPM (4000), mister, vacuum and approach skin at
1.5 IPM (38.1 MMPM).

!LGORITHM
DRILL#OUNTERSINK#OMPOSITE4ITANIUM3TACK
Drill hole one-shot in composite material.
Reduce speed and feed at low end of composite material stack tolerance.
Example: thickness -6% (1 inch reduce speed at .940 inch drill penetration). (
25.4 mm reduce speed at 23.876 mm drill penetration)
Continue drilling at reduced speed (450 RPM titanium) and feed IPM through
remaining composite material.
Continue drilling into titanium at lower IPM and RPM to end of drill tip
Rapid retract spindle to zero set point
Rapid return (into hole) to last end point minus .050 inch (1.27 mm).
This action compensates for drill pressure caused spring-back that reduces
bumping)
Continue drilling at titanium IPM and RPM for .100 to .150 inch (2.54 to 3.81
mm)
Rapid retract spindle to zero set point
Rapid return (into hole) to last end point minus .050 inch (1.27 mm).
Continue peck drilling at titanium IPM and RPM for .100 to .150 inch (2.54 to
3.81 mm)

!LGORITHM
Drill & Countersink (Composite/Titanium Stack)
Continue process until drill exits backside of titanium material .100
inch (.2.54 mm) past the end of the drill tip.
Calculation for exit criteria should be engineering material thickness
plus six percent to account for variability.
Rapid to preset countersink transition tip
Slow spindle to countersink specified RPM and IPM.
Complete countersink to depth.
Dwell .5 second.
Dwell cleans up residue and polishes countersink.
Return spindle to zero position. Turn off spindle and mister.
Unlock fifth axis
Return fifth axis to tracking position.
Dwell .5 seconds and turn off vacuum.
Signal operation complete (Unlocks machine four-axis of motion).

Summary
While every other aspect of airplane manufacturing was taking
advantage of the advances in computer controlled machine
technology, until recently airframe assembly resisted the move
away from hand processes such as drilling and countersinking.
There were many reasons for the resistance to remove the mechanic
from the airframe assembly process.
The mechanic had the touch, sight, and ability to adjust and adapt to
the variability of the complex array of very expensive work-pieces
placed together and held during the drilling, countersinking, and
fastening operations.
The ability of the mechanic to place their tools directly against the skin
of the assembly, feel the resistance change when the drill bit went
through one material into the other, and continually check and adjust
the tools of their trade gave them the advantage.

3UMMARY
The use of a countersink cage that could be normalized to the
surface and reapplied if additional depth was needed added to the
challenge to automate the process.
The encoder sensitizes the pressure foot and enables the machine
to identify the location of the skin and dampen vibration to provide
data for precision drilling of one shot holes.
Replicating the ability to identify the location of the skin in relationship
to the drill tip was an essential first step to automating the process.
Drilling holes through stacks of material where the substrate material is
harder than the surface material such as in a composite skin over a
titanium bulkhead was a bigger challenge.
The harder sharpened chip is drawn through the softer composite
material and can tear and open the hole in the skin to an
unacceptable dimension.

3UMMARY
The precise pecking routine described in this presentation/paper
solves the problem with very little or no difference in the diameter
of the outer composite skin and the composite under-structure.
Countersinking became the final challenge to automating the drilling
and countersinking process and added a level of complexity that still
frustrates a level of success that drilling by machine or robot has
realized.
The ability of the machine to provide a near depth countersink still
provides economic value as shallow countersinks can be touched-up
by the mechanic to account for fastener variability and shallow
machine made countersunk holes.
The end effector attributes, functionality, and operation as directed by
the appropriate algorithm described in this presentation/paper are
valid operational elements necessary to complete the on-assembly
drilling and countersinking of airframes.

2EFERENCES
"ULLEN '.!UTOMATED-ECHANIZED$RILLINGAND#OUNTERSINKINGOF!IRFRAMES
3!%)NTERNATIONAL 7ARRENDALE 0! )3".    
"ULLEN 'EORGE.6IBRATION ABSORBINGENDEFFECTOROFANAUTOMATEDDRILLAND
COUNTERSINKMACHINE530ATENTNUMBER &ILINGDATE!UG 
)SSUEDATE-AY 
"ERLINSKI $4HE!DVENTOFTHE!LGORITHM4HE 9EAR*OURNEYFROMAN)DEA
TOTHE#OMPUTER(ARVEST"OOKS .EW9ORK )3".   
$AMER 4$!TTACKING&AULTY2EASONING!0RACTICAL'UIDETO&ALLACY &REE
!RGUMENTSRDED 7ADSWORTH0UBLISHING "ELMONT #!  P)3".
    /#,#