An assembly gap control method based on posture alignment of wing panels in aircraft assembly

Qing Wang, Yadong Dou*, Jiangxiong Li, Yinglin Ke, Patrick Keogh, Paul Maropoulos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The gaps between two mating surfaces should be strictly controlled in precision manufacturing. Oversizing of gaps will decrease the dimensional accuracy and may reduce the fatigue life of a mechanical product. In order to reduce the gaps and keep them within tolerance, the relative posture (orientation and position) of two components should be optimized in the assembly process. This paper presents an optimal posture evaluation model to control the assembly gaps in aircraft wing assembly.Based on the step alignment strategy, i.e. preliminary alignment and refined alignment, the concept of a small posture transformation (SPT) is introduced. In the preliminary alignment, an initial posture is estimated by a set of auxiliary locating points (ALPs), with which the components can be quickly aligned near each other. In the refined alignment, the assembly gaps are calculated and the formulation of the gaps with component posture is derived by the SPT. A comprehensive weighted minimization model with gap tolerance constraints is established for redistributing the gaps in multi-regions. Powell-Hestenes-Rockafellar (PHR) optimization, Singular Value Decomposition (SVD) and KD-tree searching are introduced for the solution of the optimal posture for localization. Using the SPT, the trigonometric posture transformation is linearized, which benefits the iterative solution process. Through the constrained model, overall gaps are minimized and excess gaps are controlled within tolerance. Practical implications – This method has been tested with simulated model data and real product data, the results of which have shown efficient coordination of mating components.This paper proposed an optimal posture evaluation method for minimizing the gaps between mating surfaces through component adjustments. This will promote the assembly automation and variation control in aircraft wing assembly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)422-433
Number of pages12
JournalAssembly Automation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2017


  • mating surfaces
  • assembly gaps
  • gap tolerance
  • assembly automation
  • wing panel
  • posture evaluation


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