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How robots and humans get along at Boeing

Boeing robots
The robots that are part of Boeing’s Fuselage Automated Upright Build system work inside and outside a 777 jet fuselage during assembly. (Boeing via YouTube)

Automation isn’t just a job for the robots: It takes flesh-and-blood workers to make robotic manufacturing work, as shown in a new video about the machines that set fasteners on Boeing’s 777 jets.

Boeing’s Fuselage Automated Upright Build, or FAUB, works with operators and mechanics at the company’s plant in Everett, Wash., to do some of the heavy lifting for 777 assembly. So far, more than 40 jets have gotten the FAUB treatment.

The job begins when teams of mechanics move the panels that form the forward and aft sections of the fuselage into place. Pairs of robots, inside and out, move in unison to “drill and fill” the thousands of fasteners required to secure the panels.

In Boeing’s feature about FAUB, mechanic Mike Jennings says all that drilling and filling used to be done by hand – a task that was “really tough and stressful” on his back, neck, shoulders and arms.

Now Jennings is a robot operator – monitoring views from a camera mounted on the robot arm, maintaining the system and making tweaks to optimize performance.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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