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When The Factory Becomes Digital and Smart

Innovation and industrial transformation are two key areas in which Leonardo is investing heavily, aware of the increasingly strategic role that digitalisation will play in the manufacturing industry of the future. This is the path undertaken with the NEMESI project, carried out at the company’s sites Pomigliano d’Arco and Nola, in the Naples, Italy area.

Under the NEMESI project, which stands for ‘New Engineering & Manufacturing Enhanced System Innovation’, the Pomigliano d’Arco and Nola sites, producing aerostructures, are becoming smart factories employing new-generation industrial processes based on digitalisation, automation and application of disruptive technologies inspired by the paradigm of Industry 4.0.

NEMESI is a new way of conceiving aeronautical structures that aims to make the sites in the Naples area true centres of excellence for the construction of aeronautical structures for regional aircraft such as the ATR and, potentially, for several other narrow-body aircraft, such as the Airbus A321. The project is based on advanced new criteria of digitalisation and production automation, guaranteeing a high level of process optimisation, with a positive impact on logistics and the supply chain.

Entire Industrial Process Digitalisation

NEMESI centres around three main initiatives: 3D design, i.e. the creation of a complete digital mock-up of the fuselage, automation of the assembly line, and digitalisation of the entire industrial process.

The process begins with digitalisation of all the project data and information, exporting the current 2D drawings into 3D models, permitting creation of a complete digital mock-up of the fuselage, and making improvements to critical parts of the project. A true digital twin, that will save time and money during the design phase and make the industrial process more agile. The first fuselage in the new NEMESI line is already in production today in Pomigliano D’Arco.

3D modelling feeds complete automation of the assembly line with use of new robotic machines for perforation, riveting and all the specific tasks involved in processing of assemblies, sections, and panels.

This is a ‘selective’ automation that has been applied to those phases in the process that stand to benefit the most from it. Assembly using automation and innovative assembly jigs will speed up the production cycle, eliminate technical inefficiencies, and improve quality for more flexible production. At the same time, it will maintain a focus on the individual, with better working conditions and consolidation of new skills, and improve integration between individuals and machinery, so that the operator plays a managerial role in an automated production process.

NEMESI will digitise the entire industrial process using virtual tools and Artificial Intelligence, which in the future will facilitate automatic inspection of the fuselages for non-conformities and improve the efficiency of the quality control process. This will be achieved by using a database ensuring traceability of reworkings, as well as virtual and augmented reality to provide remote assistance and virtual on-the-job training.

Identifying and Measuring Non-Conformities

Technological devices such as tablets and totems will also help monitor production, identifying and measuring any non-conformities, while speeding up operators’ tasks by providing digitised work instructions.

Digitalisation has not only permitted use of automation machinery, but also enabled applications of Additive Manufacturing to produce tools, thereby saving time and money. A 5-metre-long tool for perforation and contouring of the panels of the ATR fuselage has been produced in this way, for the first time ever.

The digitalisation process is expected to have a positive impact on the production cycle, saving time and money while improving on quality. This will also benefit the supply chain, which will have to meet new standards of production to continue the process of improving integration with Leonardo.

The combination of technology and the human factor – which still plays a central role in the new model of industry – will impact all areas of the organisation, from designers working in full 3D mode to operators serving as digital experts. This will require major investment in training, providing increasingly virtualised training programmes open to external entities such as universities and research centres. These can already count on the Leonardo Labs and the Aerotech Campus in Pomigliano D’Arco, which serve both as a place for training young engineers and as a breeding ground for new ideas.

NEMESI also relies on a partnership with the Federico II University in Naples, representing an opportunity not only for Leonardo, but for all the small to mid-sized enterprises in the region of Campania and abroad who participate in the project, promoting the growth of know-how throughout the supply chain. NEMESI is more than just a process of automation of the production line: it is above all a knowledge-intensive project that keeps up with the progress of digital transformation.

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