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Airbus Hamburg A321LR automated assembly Airbus
The new line in Hamburg, Germany, combines fuselage shells into sections, and assembles individual sections into aircraft fuselages.

Airbus Opens Automated Assembly Line

20 robots configured to build A321LR sections, using laser-guided positioning and digital data acquisition

Airbus inaugurated an automated fuselage-structure assembly line for A320 series narrow-body aircraft in Hamburg, Germany, including a new development for Airbus’ industrial production system. The new line is configured to assemble the longer sections for the A321LR, and includes 20 robots operating with a new logistics concept, laser-measurement-guided automated positioning, and a digital data acquisition system.

“By embracing some of the latest technologies and processes, Airbus has begun its journey to set new standards in A320 family production,” according to Michael Schoellhorn, Airbus chief operating officer.

A320 aircraft are twin-engine aircraft for short- to medium-range routes. The series includes the A318, A319, A320, and A321 jets. The A321LR is a long-range version of the largest of the series, with seats for 206 passengers in two classes, and a range of 4,000 nautical miles (7,400 km.)

The Hamburg plant is responsible for joining single fuselage shells into sections, and for final assembly of individual sections into aircraft fuselages. The aircraft parts are equipped with electrical and mechanical systems before being delivered to final assembly lines in France, Germany, China, and the U.S.

For the initial section assembly in the new line,  Airbus is using a modular, lightweight automated system called “Flextrack”, with eight robots drilling and counter-sinking 1,100 to 2,400 holes per longitudinal joint.

In the next production step, 12 seven-axis robots combine the center and aft fuselage sections with the tail to form one major component, drilling, counter-sinking, sealing, and inserting 3,000 rivets per orbital joint.

Schoellhorn stated the new fuselage structure assembly line will be the means for increasing A320 series production using automation and robotics to allow faster, more efficient manufacturing while keeping the focus on quality.

“Given the enormous success of the A320 family and the order backlog, we are taking the necessary steps to ensure our production system can match the excellence of our products and that we are able to satisfy our customers’ needs for our single-aisle aircraft,” Schoellhorn added.

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