Drilling accurate holes is important in all arenas of manufacturing and assembly. Current lean operations demand a new approach to
cutting costs and staying flexible, while staying proficient at demanding jobs. Lightweight portable automated drilling machines are
now finding themselves competing with large machine tools drilling complex structures.
It is feasible to eliminate the need for a large 5-axis drilling system by replacing it with a portable 3-axis drilling machine.
Often airframes and wings consist of large gentle curvatures that locally are considered flat. The Flex Track was developed to
achieve a goal of eliminating the need for the 5-axis capabilities of a traditional drilling machine, as well as eliminating the
need for supporting tooling.
Flex Track uses a flexible primary axis coupled to the airframe by multiple vacuum cups. This support eliminates the need for a
secondary machine tool frame dedicated to supporting the Flex Track. The flexibility of this axis also allows for the discrete
elimination of an axis of rotation by allowing the machine to follow the contour of the structure. Likewise a small span secondary
axis reduces the need for another angular correction axis. Using the above as the base line and adding traditional CNC controls an
automated lightweight portable 3-axis machine can perform as a 5-axis machine.
Simplifying drilling by treating large structures as locally flat and directly coupling a machine to the surface allows for small
machines to compete in a market dominated by large five axis drilling machines. The result with Flex Track is a production machine
tool with unlimited applications.