AIT is a leading industrial automation company specializing in aerospace
manufacturing solutions. Their customer list reads like a who’s who of
the aerospace industry, including Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, British
Aerospace, CASA, EADS, EDO Corp., Embraer, Fairchild, Dornier, Global
Aeronautica, Hawker Beechcraft, Lockheed Martin, McDonnell
Douglas, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Northrop Grumman, Spirit
AeroSystems, and Triumph Aerostructures – just to name a few. AIT’s
Chesterfield Twp, Michigan, facility is tasked with design and fabrication
of autoclave mold tooling and assembly jigs used by tier-one aerospace
manufacturers. To maintain high precision it takes exceptional
metrology software “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,”
said 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 designs go to their in-house fabricating department
where the tools are machined, assembled, painted and checked for quality
using Verisurf X software – easy, right? Not so fast. Let’s back up and take a
closer look 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’s 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,” said
Kempen. “For these challenges we like Verisurf software – it’s 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 envelop and provide data so they could
design and build an accurate assembly tool. Once designed they 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 this
place has a Verisurf inspection report attached to it,” said Kempen.
Large-Scale Bond Tools
“Using Verisurf software we are able to save days, even weeks of machining
time on large-scale bond tools,” said Kempen. Fuselage and wing skins are
large complex surfaces with extreme tolerances. Typically, creating a face
sheet that starts out at 1-inch thickness and is taken down to .5-inch will be
reduced by less than “.100 with each pass. The machine starts with the high
points and works down. In doing this, AIT use to “cut air” for days until the
machine finally got down to the uniform layers. Now they use Verisurf to
3D laser scan the as built tool surface and create a machining model that
allows them to cut material 100% of the time. This literally saves days and
sometimes weeks of cutting, 24/7.
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,” said Kempen. “We
have also realized training efficiencies by standardizing on the common