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Structured Light for Coating Application and Removal



OBJECTIVE: Develop systems approach to accurately measure large area structures as well as small complex shapes, determine if item in spec, calculate optimized sanding/spraying operations to bring it into spec, and cue a robot to perform corrective operations. 

DESCRIPTION: As-produced aerospace surfaces vary slightly due to inherent manufacturing variations. While the initial variations are being reduced during production because of better controls, there still is a need to bring features such as the outer mold line (OML) of each and every aircraft into a tighter tolerance range during post production processes such as spraying and sanding. Many spraying and sanding OML processes involve hours of hand finishing and/or rework. An examination of existing technologies to quickly measure components, aircraft, and coating thicknesses, determine corrective actions, and implement them to bring an item into spec is desired. This effort seeks to demonstrate such an accurate, automated system to do this and thus allow an increase in affordability, throughput and quality by identifying areas that need additional material or material removal. The system will note the areas and automatically generate the appropriate sanding or spraying paths in order to correct the anomaly. The information gathered from the measurements will also be used to populate a digital thread that will follow the component for life. Note that the designed system should be adaptable to large and small platforms, i.e., bombers and missiles, respectively, and should be mobile as there is the need to move it around an aircraft. In addition to this, an analyses of cost and labor hour savings and the tradeoffs versus the current manual approach shall be conducted. Working with an OEM in Phase I/II is highly recommended in order to develop the final commercial product. Their input is necessary in Phase III so that key manufacturing parameters are developed and demonstrated to a MRL 7. The offeror should also have insight as to the requirements for implementing such a system onto the OEM shop floor: utility requirements, safety, manning, etc. 

PHASE I: Phase I develops an automated system that measures and corrects near-final finish components. High speed technologies, e.g., structured light, to measure components as large as aircraft should be evaluated. These should then be compared to specs and areas for corrections determined. Corrective sanding/spraying paths will be generated, which ideally would then be executed by a robot. 

PHASE II: The offeror should finish a “Golden Part” by taking images and determining measurements, stitching images electronically, determining required sanding paths, passes, and pressures to bring the part into spec, performing the automated sanding operations, and confirming the results. The final deliverable should be a MRL 6 system demo that can perform the operation seamlessly. An analyses of cost and labor hour savings and tradeoffs versus the current manual approach shall be conducted. 

PHASE III: Work with an OEM to develop key manufacturing parameters and demo a MRL 7 system to those parameters. Populate digital thread. Refine design if inefficiencies found. Identify key cost/technology drivers that may limit technology transfer to an OEM. Refine affordability analyses. 




KEYWORDS: Finishing Operation, Sanding, Spraying, Measurement System 


Carl M. Lombard (AFRL/RXME) 

(937) 904-4388 

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