Precision Meets Critical Thinking
The use of metrology software helps a Tier 1 aerospace manufacturer maintain its high-precision standards.
Advanced Integration Technology Inc. (AIT), Plano, TX, is a leading industrial automation company specializing in aerospace manufacturing solutions. Its customer list reads like a who’s who of the aerospace industry, including Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Lockheed Martin, McDonnell Douglas, and Northrop Grumman – just to name a few. AIT’s Chesterfield Twp., MI, facility is tasked with design and fabrication of autoclave mold tooling and assembly jigs used by Tier 1 aerospace manufacturers. The company requires exceptional metrology software to maintain its precision standards.
“To say AIT utilizes Verisurf X metrology software would be an understatement; the company relies on the software for virtually every aspect of our development and production workflow,” says Jamie Kempen, quality manufacturing systems manager, AIT.
A large part of AIT’s business is developing complex autoclave tooling for composites manufacturing. At first glance, the process seems very straightforward and comprehensive. First, the AIT team agrees to dates and deliverables on a per-project basis. Next, they receive engineering input from which they develop the tools, followed by the tool design process. Once approved, the tool designs go to their in-house fabricating department for machining, assembly, painting, and quality check using Verisurf X software.
Easy, right? Not so fast, let us back up and take a closer looks at engineering input and tool design.
In today’s high-tech world, you would think engineering data used to design and build assembly tools would be readily available, but it is not. Either the customer does not provide it, the data has been lost or corrupted, or in the case of a rebuild, the part being replaced is no longer the same spec as when it was new.
“At AIT about 90% of our projects are new builds, the other 10% are rebuilds. Sometimes we get CAD data but often we get drawings or just the part being manufactured or assembled. In every case we need to apply creativity and critical problem solving to arrive at the final solution,” Kampen says. “For these challenges we like Verisurf software – it is easy to swim around the software. Verisurf is so dynamic we can take multiple routes to the end result.”
Helicopter Rotor Blade
AIT needed to design and build a bond tool for installation of the skin on rotor blade rebuilds. The challenge was after use, the rotor blade envelope changed, compared to when it was originally built. AIT used Verisurf Reverse to reverse engineer the envelope and provide data so they could design and build an accurate assembly tool. Once designed, the company again relied on Verisurf software to check accuracy during the build process, and for final QC before shipping.
“Virtually every tool or jig that leaves our facility has a Verisurf inspection report attached to it,” Kempen says.
Large-Scale Bond Tools
“Using Verisurf software we are able to save days, even weeks of machining time on large-scale bond tools,” Kempen says.
Fuselage and wing skins are large, complex surfaces with extreme tolerances. Typically, creating a face sheet that starts out at 1.000" thickness, and is taken down to 0.500", will be reduced by less than 0.100" with each pass. The machine starts with the high points and works down. In doing this, AIT employees used to cut air for days until the machine finally got down to the uniform layers. Now they use Verisurf Reverse to create a reverse model that allows them to cut material 100% of the time.
With the new surface, the CNC machine tool path are programmed to cut material 100% of the time, eliminating days and weeks of cutting.
AIT uses multiple brands and types of metrology hardware devices, but has standardized on Verisurf software, partly because it drives virtually every device on the market.
“We use almost every function Verisurf has to offer. The software is intuitive and very easy to use,” Kempen says. “We have also realized training efficiencies by standardizing on the common Verisurf platform.”
“For us, final inspection is the easy part, we use Verisurf in just about every aspect of our business,” Kempen says. For example:
- Reverse engineering parts to design tooling
- Inspection of the egg crate before fitting the face sheet
- Inspection of the face sheet before final welding
- Final inspection before the tool goes out the door
“Verisurf software is a useful tool. In our business the final inspection is the easy part, the development and manufacturing processes are filled with critical thinking – Verisurf supports that thinking,” Kempen concludes.
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