Home Bots & Business Robots cut Aircraft Washing Time by 95%

Robots cut Aircraft Washing Time by 95%

by Marco van der Hoeven

Wilder Systems, an Austin, Texas-based automation supplier, has innovatively developed a robotic system designed to automate the process of airplane washing in aerospace manufacturing. Using the software of RoboDK, this significantly reduces the manual labor involved in this essential but time-intensive task. It effectively cuts aircraft washing time by 95%.

Airplane washing, while crucial for reducing corrosion and extending the life and safety of the aircraft, is traditionally a labor-intensive and potentially hazardous process. Typically, a team of four mechanics would spend approximately four hours, totaling 16 person-hours, to manually wash an airplane. This conventional method not only consumes a significant portion of the day, rendering both the personnel and aircraft unavailable for other tasks, but also poses risks due to the heights and wet conditions involved.

‘Drive-thru’ washing

Wilder Systems has addressed these challenges by introducing a robotic ‘drive-thru’ washing system, utilizing a combination of robotic technologies like mobile robots, gantry robots, and collaborative robotics. The core of this system includes FANUC 6-axis industrial robots for performing the washing task, coordinated through a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), and equipped with a hydraulic pump system for the cleaning operation.


The software component of the system, essential for programming the robots, is powered by RoboDK. Alejandro Rengel, the main programmer, utilized RoboDK for its efficient offline programming capabilities, integrating it with Autodesk Fusion 360 for 3D modeling. This setup enabled the creation of adaptive and error-proof robot paths.

The system’s efficiency is highlighted by its ability to complete the washing cycle in just 52 minutes, a drastic reduction from the 16 person-hours required for manual washing. This represents a near 100% saving in person-hours, considering the robot can operate autonomously without human oversight.

Complex tasks

Looking forward, Wilder Systems aims to expand the use of this robotic platform to other complex and time-consuming aircraft maintenance tasks, such as depainting, repainting, panel drilling, and non-destructive inspection. They also plan to enhance the system’s agility by incorporating a mobile and autonomous platform, allowing operations across various locations.

This development by Wilder Systems stands as a significant innovation in aerospace manufacturing, offering a safer, more efficient alternative to traditional airplane washing methods and opening avenues for further automation in aircraft maintenance.

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