In this Q&A session, Guven Turemen, group commercial metrology manager, and Stephen Sanderson, group inspection manager, from visual equipment specialists, Vision Engineering discuss how the company’s systems are applied to the field of aerospace manufacturing.
Founded by motorsport engineer Rob Freeman, Vision Engineering’s history dates back to the 1950s when its first borescopes were used for the inspection of racing car engines and early aero engines. Now its microscopes and other vision technology is used in many industrial sectors, including aerospace.
Q) Can you say what applications your equipment is used for in aerospace today?
Our non-contact measurement systems are widely used in measurement and inspection of critical parts, which are either machined, pressed or moulded. Measurement plays a key role in ensuring that parts manufactured are compliant with customers’ strict requirements. Identifying any non-compliances early on saves time, cost and ultimately lives!
Every single part in a modern aircraft must go through rigorous checks and controls. Therefore, the applications we cater for can vary from machined parts for the engine to plastic components for the cabin interior or electronics.
Regarding inspection, our equipment is used for inspection and reworking of electronics, small and large PCBs, conformal coating inspection, assembly and inspection of electronic connectors. Also, plastics for moulding accuracy of some of the smaller components - also during material testing; inspecting and deburring machined parts; inspecting rubber seals and gaskets.
Q) Which models of your instruments are used most widely for aerospace applications and what is the relationship between optical and digital methods when it comes to measuring/inspecting parts?
Our Hawk and Swift PRO range of vision measurement systems provide the flexibility to accurately measure a wide variety of components due to their ability to switch seamlessly between video and optical measurement methods. Whilst parts with clear edges and mostly profile features can be measured quickly using video edge detection, parts with poor edge definition or complex shapes can be measured using Vision’s patented ergonomic optical measuring microscope; all in the same system and in one measurement programme.
Our LVC range of video measurement systems are geared for fast, automated measurements of small to large components and with more complex shapes and 3D features that may require contact measurement as well as non-contact. With built in motorised zoom and touch probe integrations, LVC400 and LVC200 systems are ideal for more complex measurement requirements, whilst maintaining the ease-of-use.
Furthermore, our Mantis microscope is often used for inspection of rubber seals, plastic components and some simpler electronics but Lynx EVO is used for more complex electronics or precision engineering.
We find that digital products such as EVO Cam II are used for inspection tasks and often liked where image capture is important, however, where manipulation is required or the fine detail of a 3D subject is being viewed, then the Lynx EVO is preferred.
Q) What are the demands that drive metrology and inspection in aerospace from your customers?
Compliance is a key concern to our customers. They need to ensure that every single item manufactured conforms to strict design specifications. This is of critical importance in aerospace, as the cost of any non-compliance could have dire consequences. Therefore, manufacturers must check that their components are within tolerance and that they carry out these checks on certified measuring equipment, traceable to international standards.
Another major issue aerospace manufacturers suffer from is long measurement routines which slow down production and delivery of parts. Automated non-contact systems that are easy to use, help drive measurement times down, as they work significantly faster compared to contact measuring systems are desirable.
We have also seen increasing demands for image capture and connectivity and we have responded with additional feature sets for EVO Cam II and the introduction of the DRV-Z1. The DRV-Z1 is the first true high definition stereo inspection system without the need for external eye-wear. It offers for the first time, high resolution connected inspection live and in 3D.
Q) What are the challenges of measuring and inspecting components when it comes to aerospace applications?
Reducing the time taken to carry out complex measurement routines is a frequent concern from manufacturers. We aim to help by offering highly capable systems that are easy to use and can be operated by machinists or goods-in personnel, as well as QC technicians.
Exporting and storing the measurement data after each measurement is also a critical part of the manufacturing process in aerospace. We have made it very easy on our systems to produce the measurement data and export in multiple different formats, including printed measurement reports or MS Excel files, so that every customer from small machine shops to large multinationals can produce traceable measurement reports.
Inspection systems that allow the operator to quickly see what they need are vital. Another challenge is user performance throughout the day. The ergonomics of the system are critical as this directly affects the performance of the user, both in productivity and quality of inspections. The optical and postural ergonomics of Vision Engineering inspection systems help reduce fatigue, eyestrain and other human factors that affect performance.
Q) What are the benefits of using Vision’s optical/visual metrology and inspection systems in this industry?
Combining the advantages of video and optical measurement technologies in a single system offers great flexibility to sub-contract manufacturers, whose production, and therefore measurement requirements, vary from job to job. Parts with simple profile features can be measured rapidly by video edge detection, and complex parts with poor edges or low contrast can be measured manually with the high-resolution ergonomic optical microscope; all in the same system. We also calibrate all of our systems before and after shipment, therefore offering customers complete peace of mind about their measurement results.
Q) Will your new DRV-Z1 3D viewer have many applications for this market? What are the benefits of this system?
As a stand-alone microscope the ability to view subjects comfortably and clearly in three dimensions, with a huge field of view means inspections are easier more accurate and can be recorded and reviewed in 3D. The large open fronted design aids interaction between colleagues and speeds access to tools and materials.
As a connected system there is the ability to share saved 3D images and 3D videos via email or to share 3D views in real-time for live collaboration. This ensures all parties have a very clear understanding of what is being viewed, allowing them to make better, more accurate decisions.
The flexibility of the system means users can change quickly and easily without the need for time consuming adjustments. The DRV-Z1 can be connected to software for annotation of images and basic measurement of subjects. Although it is a 3D image system, images captured on a DRV-Z1 can also be shared and reviewed on 2D screens so where 2D images are needed for collaboration or reporting this is also possible.
With the DRV-Z1, we are embracing the move to Industry 4.0 and digital twinning. DRV-Z1’s sister product the DRV-D1 uses the same 3D visualisation technology to display 3D data in three dimensions. This can be CAD data for design, scan data from CT or other scans or other 3D data sources. This is useful as it provides a far more user-friendly working experience than using uncomfortable isolating headsets at a lower cost than a 3D visualisation suite. Providing high-quality, three-dimensional inspection and visualisation systems in a 3D world feels like the key to the future, so we’re looking forward to it.
Q) What is your approach to R&D and future technologies that could impact aerospace manufacturing?
Our approach is to bring to market new products that offer exceptional value to our customers. This means products that are able to carry our advanced measurement tasks rapidly, accurately, repeatedly and easily, whilst keeping the investment required as reasonable as possible. We do this by focusing on the actual requirements and needs of our customers, rather than technological trends that can push up costs.