GripChek - Autonomous Hole Depth Measurement System

Award Information
Department of Defense
Award Year:
Phase II
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Solicitation Year:
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Small Business Information
Systems and Materials Research Corporati
11525 Stonehollow Drive, Suite A120, Austin, TX, -
Hubzone Owned:
Minority Owned:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Malcolm Prouty
(512) 968-4750
Business Contact:
David Irvin
Director of Research
(512) 757-5441
Research Institution:

ABSTRACT: AutoDrills at Lockheed Martin drill over 12,000 holes in the wing skins and understructure on each F-35 aircraft. To ensure these holes get the correct fasteners, a technician must measure the depth of each hole and mark the dimension on the skin adjacent to the hole. This procedure is known as"gripping". According to Lockheed Martin Manufacturing Technology (ManTech), gripping takes an average of 70 seconds per hole. This amounts to over 230 hours per aircraft. Systems and Materials Research Corporation (SMRC) proposes GripChek, an automated, zero time added, hole depth measurement solution. Technicians tend to use fasteners that are known to be too long. This adds unnecessary weight, and the practice is fundamentally incompatible with the JSF program's ESH mission. Likewise, fasteners that are installed too short must be removed and replaced with the correct fastener. GripChek uses the drilling operation itself to determine and record the depth of the hole in real time - exactly the right length fastener every time. GripChek will benefit the aircraft industry by reducing weight, cost, and waste with zero time added. BENEFIT: SMRC's GripChek solution is simpler, faster, and easier to integrate to an automated drilling system in comparison to any other real-time hole-depth measurement system under development. The baseline technology has been proven by Sandia National Laboratory, and has been addressed as a preferred solution for both Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. SMRC's GripChek system does not rely on added components attached to the drill head, but instead relies on data generated by the AutoDrill controller and minimal sensor hardware attached to the drive harness. GripChek will be cost effective and provide high return on investment. It will eliminate manual hole-depth measurement process saving thousands of labor-hours per aircraft. The maintenance of GripChek will be less frequent and require minimum interruption to the drilling process. SMRC estimates savings of $305Million for the entire Aerospace industry over 27-year time period of GripChek operation.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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