IF YOU FEEL like you’ve taken a beating after spending eight hours on a plane, try spending a shift on the assembly line that rolls out the flying metal tubes you so hate. It takes two humans to install each of the more than 60,000 rivets that hold a Boeing 777 together: one firing the rivet gun, the other holding the steel bucking bar that forces the fastener into place. The benefits of this tiring job include repetitive stress injuries to the arms, back, and shoulders.
To improve life on the line, Boeing brought in robots. Boeing installed the Fuselage Automated Upright Build system at its 777 factory in Everett, Washington, in December, 2015. It started out assembling the front section of each fuselage; this month, it takes on the rear as well. The robots work in pairs, mimicking the humans they replace.