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May 2, 2016 AT 12:00 pm

Where Robots Make Spacecraft #ManufacturingMonday

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There’s a factory where perfect robots make perfect spacecraft and precision weaponry. The robots have names. They’re here to serve you. For now.

The robots work with smooth, almost spooky efficiency, and not just at boring, repetitive assembly line tasks. A hefty robot arm hauls a rack of parts for six Talon laser-guided rockets to an oven meant to test their endurance against extreme heat. The door of the Thermotron opens automatically just as the arm reaches it and shuts when the parts are inside. It’s Pee Wee’s Playhouse, but with clean rooms and pieces of deadly precision weapons.

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The jewel of Raytheon’s virtual reality efforts is called the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment, or just CAVE for short. It’s a stage ringed by screens that display stereoscopic 3D and augmented-reality images. Donning glasses with antennae that tell the system where your face is aimed, a viewer can fly through the layout of a new missile factory, coordinating the ballet of robots, humans, and hardware. This is important whether you’re setting up a new plant or adapting an existing one to accommodate a new government contract. Even better, Raytheon can put suppliers and customers inside the VR to show them how it plans to get the work done.


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