Design of a Universal End Effector for Robotic Assembly of Heat Exchanger Cores

Collins Aerospace Team: Phoebe Uman, Charlotte Kenny, Jessica Yoder, Molly Loughney

2021-2022: In collaboration with Collins Aerospace, this student team designed a universal end effector to assist with robotic assembly of heat exchanger (HX) cores. The current manual assembly process is economically inefficient and time consuming so Collins is transitioning to automated assembly. The goal for this project was to design a universal end effector that could reliably pick up the HX core components, maneuver them without damage or dropping, and accurately place them into a fixture while maintaining assembly quality.

The team researched and evaluated commercial and experimental gripper technologies, generated a range of additional ideas, and selected four concepts to explore further: forklift, linear slides, multi-finger, and pin array. Based on 3D modeling, physical prototyping, and testing, the team determined that the pin array was the most viable concept. The team then tested a variety of pin materials and shapes, array geometries, and housing formats. The team delivered their verified design, including CAD files and physical prototypes, along with recommendations for future refinements to their Collins liaisons.