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Metrology in Aerospace


technologies—laser trackers, low-cost targets, and metrol- ogy software—engineered into a simple-to-use system. While specifi c times for recertifi cation measurements were set not to exceed a few hours, the real goal of the Automated Measure-


ment System (AMS) was to enable nonspecialist operators of the assembly tool to perform the task.


A laser tracker requires a precisely planted target to


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refl ect a laser beam, such as a prism or Spherically Mounted Retrorefl ectors (SMR). The AMS system used both permanently installed targets as well as temporary, replaceable tar- gets. Placing temporary targets is time consuming and only used when higher accuracy is required. However, with the help of software and routines on the laser tracker itself, every-day opera- tors are fully capable of placing these targets, said Ray Ryan, vice president of East Coast Metrology (Topsfi eld, MA), a partner in the project. Specialists are not needed. The project reported a test measuring a large commercial wing jig in less than eight hours—much less than the week or so, it took before. While existing technology, like laser trackers, provides the needed speed and accuracy, “the sophistication of the metrology equipment that exists does not make it easy to modify,” he ex- plained. “You need to adjust the process to fi t the equipment.” For example, the traditional method of using a laser tracker was to place it at random on the factory fl oor, and then measure a series of points to locate the instrument in the aircraft coordinates—then use it for measurement or guided assembly. Automating the process requires putting instruments in an exact location, with special pre-determined fl oor mounts. “At that point, you can push a button and have the device start measuring points,” he said, a simple example of how smart design leads to automation. This is especially true for software


as well. This means integrators writing graphical user interfaces, with all-impor- tant error trapping, on top of sophisticated metrology software. This turns software


70 ManufacturingEngineeringMedia.com | March 2013


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