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Robots at work! Airbus fully automates solar array production

At the Airbus Defence and Space facility in Ottobrunn, Germany, 'Sirius' picks up a solar cell and places it on the turntable to the left. The cell’s connector is then attached and welded, followed by the finished unit’s insertion into a magazine. And the entire process starts again.

Sirius and 17 robot 'colleagues' (all named after stars in the Milky Way) form the heart of Europe’s very first fully automated solar-array production facility, which began operations this month. Solar arrays are used on satellites and spacecraft to provide power that is converted from sunlight.

Airbus has invested more than EURO€15 million in the facility, with this new Industry 4.0 production line serving as a flagship project for the company’s industrial strategy. “Sirius never gets tired and doesn’t make any mistakes,” says Sirius’ manager Jens Birkel, who is in charge of solar array production and test at Airbus in Ottobrunn.

From an individual cell to a completed solar array, the robots carry out a total of 60 steps across six stations. After Sirius has fed the individual solar cells into the production line, 'Vega' laminates the cells with a glass covering to protect them against cosmic radiation in space.