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Cirrus puts $1 million into new robotic equipment

Cirrus Aircraft announced Monday that it has invested about $1 million in a new piece of robotic equipment at its Duluth production facility that will be used to help produce its new personal jet, the Vision SF50.

Cirrus robot
Cirrus Aircraft has invested about $1 million into new equipment at its Duluth facility for use in production of the Vision SF50 jet. (Photo courtesy Cirrus Aircraft)

Cirrus Aircraft announced Monday that it has invested about $1 million in a new piece of robotic equipment at its Duluth production facility that will be used to help produce its new personal jet, the Vision SF50.

The investment in Duluth comes on the heels of a comparable capital expenditure in Grand Forks, N.D., where the company installed an autoclave earlier this month to produce carbon fiber components for the jet.

"We build cool airplanes, and we build them in a modern way, on the cutting edge," said Todd Simmons, Cirrus' executive vice president of sales, marketing and customer support.

Simmons said the new robotic trim and drill facility is being used to fabricate tooling and rapid prototype parts for the jet and will eventually become part of its production line.

The machine features a six-axis robot arm with a 10-foot reach. It's installed on a 40-foot rail and boasts a lifting capacity of 180 pounds. It also has the ability to automatically change out 40 different automated tool heads. Thanks to laser depth instrumentation and a camera/vision alignment system, the machine is supposed to be accurate to thousandths of an inch over the entire envelope of a work piece.

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Cirrus has been flying a verification jet to test the design of its newest aircraft since 2008. By the first quarter of 2014, it aims to launch its first conforming jet, built using production drawings and with production tooling. This airplane will be primarily made of light and strong carbon fiber, instead of the heavier fiberglass used in its testing predecessor.

Yet two more additional test airplanes will need to be built before the jet receives the certification it needs to begin mass production.

As Cirrus' efforts to bring a jet to market by the end of 2015 pick up steam, interest in the program is growing, according to Simmons. At the Airventure show, which began this week in Oshkosh, Wis., Cirrus continues to take new orders.

To date, Simmons said the company has taken more than 540 orders for the Vision SF50. The jet is expected to sell for $1.96 million, and would-be buyers can claim a place in line with a $100,000 deposit.

The jet will carry up to five adults and two children.

The single engine jetcraft is expected to fly at 300 knots (about 345 mph) and have a range of about 1,100 miles with one load of fuel.

Related Topics: TECHNOLOGY
Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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