Carnegie Mellon University


April 17, 2019

Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) and Airbus Americas fund NREC to Develop a Vision-Based Robotic Solution to Improve Surface Cleaning Operations in the Aerospace Industry.

Industrial surface cleaning is a very common step in most manufacturing sectors. It’s traditionally a manual and time-consuming process executed by skilled workers to remove dust, debris, and contaminants from equipment and environments. In the aerospace industry, the spaces to be cleaned, such as fuel tanks, are confined and difficult to access. This requires humans to be in awkward positions for long periods of time, leading to injuries and a high turn-over rate.

To address this problem, the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) will develop a modular, vision-based robotic surface treatment system capable of performing tasks in confined spaces. This system will build upon existing modular manipulator technology that NREC has been developing. The technology potentially removes the human from a physically demanding and unsafe environment, improving the workplace and reducing the possibility of injury. And because of the modular nature of the system, it can be easily adapted for various applications in other manufacturing industries.

Jointly funded by Airbus Americas and Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM), NREC’s program will support the core ARM mission objectives of a cost competitive workforce, lower barriers for technology acceptance, creation of new jobs for robotics engineers and technicians, and asserting U.S. leadership in advanced robotics for manufacturing. Development of this system will provide a robotic solution for a common manufacturing process while freeing workers to perform other, more value-added tasks and reduce the possibility of work-related injuries. Achieving this objective will also decrease the overall manufacturing cost.

“Utilizing robotics to inspect and maintain our aircraft will alleviate the burden on our customers and it allows us to build lighter and more fuel-efficient aircraft, “ explained  Amanda Simpson, Vice President of Research and Technology, Airbus Americas. 

Dr. Herman Herman, director of NREC, will serve as the principal investigator for this project, bringing extensive expertise and know-how from numerous commercial and government programs. “We are excited to partner with Airbus and ARM to address a critical need in the aviation industry,” notes Dr. Herman.

About ARM – Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing

Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) is the nation’s leading collaborative in robotics and workforce innovation. Structured as a public-private partnership, we accelerate transformative robotic technologies and education to increase U.S. global manufacturing competitiveness. Founded in January 2017 in Pittsburgh, PA by Carnegie Mellon University, and funded by the Department of Defense, ARM is part of the Manufacturing USA® network. Learn more at