An optical 3D scanning solution from NVision recently helped a major U.S. airline get a bird-damaged aircraft back into service within 48 hr.
The low-cost carrier’s Boeing 737 aircraft suffered damage to one of its wing ribs, which required grounding so repairs could be made. NVision sent technicians to the airline’s facilities to scan the damage with its portable HandHeld laser scanner, which can collect 3D geometry from objects of nearly any shape or size. According to the company, the scanner can cut down the time required to measure complex shapes from weeks to hours.
Once the wing rib was scanned, its geometrical data was converted to a 3D model so engineers could quickly create an insert to strengthen the rib, which was rapidly machined and installed. Typically, NVision says the process of fixing damage from a bird strike would have taken much longer, resulting in extended AOG time.
“In addition to removing, repairing and restoring the damaged component, the airline also bears the cost of flight delays, cancellations and missed connections,” says Steve Kersen, president of NVision. “The immense expense incurred by grounding the aircraft made restoring it to flightworthiness an immediate and top priority.”
According to NVision, the rapid turnaround time enabled by its HandHeld portable scanner helped the carrier avoid financial losses from serious downtime. The FAA estimates that in 2017, bird strikes cost the U.S. civil aviation industry at least 71,253 hr. of aircraft downtime and $400 million in damages.
Bird strike damage isn’t the only use case for the HandHeld scanner—NVision says it can be used to repair blades and vanes inside jet engines, correct aerospace casting distortions, or repair or replace aircraft parts that were originally designed without computer-aided design (CAD) systems. A representative for NVision says the U.S. Air Force uses the scanner to reverse engineer complex aircraft parts at several of its bases.
The company says the optical scanning solution has also been used within the MRO industry to attain quicker FAA approval for repairs. One customer needed to repair an aircraft part that required corrosion to be removed prior to the repair and reassembly process. According to NVision, the repair station used the scanner to document how much metal was removed in the part’s corroded areas and create a detailed inspection report for the FAA much more quickly than had previously been possible.
Kersen says NVision’s growing aerospace customer list includes carriers such as American Airlines and Southwest along with OEMs like Bombardier and Lockheed Martin. “We’re doing more aerospace work than ever before. Currently, we’re seeing several projects each month. And it just continues to grow,” he says. “The applications for non-contact optical scanning and measurement in aircraft design and MRO are truly limitless and the airline industry is moving fast to take advantage of this powerful technology.”
NVision’s HandHeld portable scanner has been on the market since 1996 and the price of a typical system—including hardware, software and training—ranges from $75,00-$125,000.