Streamlining planning and scheduling processes to achieve on-time delivery on average 96 to 98 percent of the time

Product: Opcenter
Industry: Aerospace & defense

Applied Composites, founded in 1982, is a global leader in the composites industry, providing composite solutions for air-frames, engines, defense and mission systems, launch vehicles and satellite structures. Overall, the company aims to strategically offer engineering services, programmatic support and vertically integrated manufacturing capabilities to customers in the aerospace and defense industries. Applied Composites has a long customer satisfaction history thanks to their focus on improving their processes to reduce time and costs.

However, as Applied Composites grew, they noticed issues regarding planning, scheduling and their overall processes. As a solution, the company consulted with Lean Scheduling International (LSI), part of ATS Global (ATS), a Siemens Digital Industries Software partner. This led to the company leveraging Opcenter™ software as a solution, which is part of the Siemens Xcelerator business platform of software, hardware and services.null

Keeping up with business growth challenges

Although business growth sounds like an overall win-win situation, there are challenges that come with it. Applied Composites realized that it was becoming more difficult to manage planning, scheduling and overall processes, especially when the company’s growth was affecting all areas. As the customer base grew, the amount of work grew, causing the need for more employees. With these compounding issues, the plant’s work environment also suffered, creating stress for workers to understand where products were and causing orders to go missing. Additionally, not knowing what materials they would need for certain jobs or not being able to schedule enough employees to run available machines was causing the company to fall behind.

During this period, Applied Composites was using spreadsheets and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to create a detailed production report listing all customer jobs and ship-by dates. The ERP software would set the material dates using its built-in materials requirement planning (MRP) function; however, this system had flaws. It did not consider tooling as a constraint, which is crucial for accurately scheduling downstream operations in the manufacturing process. Due to this, Michael Moses, the master scheduler at Applied Composites, would have to schedule 6 to 8 weeks out after receiving the MRP process report.

Additionally, John Pettit, the operations manager at Applied Composites, describes the challenges of the supervisor’s role in the first operational step (laminating). First, they would have to look at the daily report. Then piece together how to manage the shop floor for the day. This includes figuring out what the delivery dates were, knowing that they had to have everything in their department at least four weeks before the due date and giving other departments a week to finish. Overall, the process was not optimal and left room for error.

Applied Composites knew they needed to find a way to overcome these issues, especially when it came to scheduling and planning. “Overall, we wanted to have a clear indication of what we could be delivering on,” says Moses.

Teaming up to find a solution

To find a solution, Applied Composites solicited help from LSI. At first, the company struggled with adapting to a solution that had an alternative approach to scheduling versus their original ERP software, leading the first implementation to not be successful. However, once the company was confident in LSI’s suggestion of using Opcenter Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS), they were able to successfully implement it.

Using mini-proofs of concept, LSI worked with Applied Composites to suggest and gather data for driving their schedule. Additionally, by having a hands-on approach for configuring models and validating data requirements, the companies can test various validation scenarios.

Overall, Applied Composites chose Opcenter APS as their scheduling and planning solution because of its capability to manage complex scheduling requirements with multiple constraints active throughout the manufacturing process. This was something the company’s previous ERP software could not do.null

Overcoming planning and scheduling limitations

Before integrating Opcenter APS, Applied Composites experienced numerous limitations using their old solution. This included a lack of visibility for material availability, a reliance on the scheduler’s and shop floor supervisor’s tribal knowledge, a stressful and chaotic environment, exponential amounts of time spent on production scheduling and no solution to aid the scheduler in making decisions. However, thanks to Opcenter APS, they were able to overcome most of them.

To overcome these limitations, using Opcenter APS, Applied Composites was able to configure models to consider all constraints, from materials to tooling or molds to operator capabilities. From there, they could efficiently create a schedule according to the plant’s true capacity and not an estimate. With these configurations, the company could also improve their scheduling processes since the software could automatically make many of the scheduling decisions. Previously, the scheduler took hours to create a high-level report and then use it to create a schedule in a spreadsheet, leveraging knowledge and data from multiple sources.

As for visibility, using Opcenter APS, workers could see where the orders were in the plant, inform customers of actual lead times versus standard lead times and see if there were any potential issues downstream. Further, the ability to set accurate material demand dates and schedules was groundbreaking for the company. Now they could schedule over 30,000 operations quickly and easily, saving time and manual effort.null

Previously, department supervisors handled scheduling and processed downstream operations simultaneously, causing them to miss opportunities to maximize throughput and reduce changeover times. Additionally, Applied Composites considered assigning three schedulers to manage the plant’s activities; however, with Opcenter APS, they required one master scheduler, lowering the need for more workers for a specific task.

Overall, by using this solution, Applied Composites can generate an easy-to-follow schedule, helping them limit the decision-making happening on the shop floor and reducing stress and disorganization.null

Benefiting from Opcenter

Once Applied Composites fully integrated Opcenter APS, they pushed the software’s capabilities to the max, using nearly every out-of-the-box (OOTB) feature without customizations, reducing scheduling time from hours to minutes. Using this solution provided the company with an accurate schedule that respects tooling and machine constraints, labor and materials while maximizing set up time, prioritizing delivery dates and allowing them to flag priority customers. They can also stay on top of any issues or delays that may arise, allowing the company to immediately notify the customer and inform them of the recovery date.

“Using Opcenter APS ties it all together, giving us an opportunity to be upfront with our customers and to help identify what’s going to contribute the most success to the program,” says Moses.

Thanks to the constraint capabilities, Applied Composites can now streamline their tooling and labor processes. For tooling constraints, the company had unique challenges concerning molds, which multiple operations used. Once a mold was in use for one operation, it was used for multiple stages until the system released it later during a downstream process. This means that technicians cannot schedule that mold again until it is released. To overcome this challenge, the solution needed to commit those molds to each consecutive operation that required them, track their use and not allow another operation to schedule them until they were available.

As for labor constraints, the company used these at the department level; however, only certain operators had the specific resource skills or capabilities to use them. Using Opcenter APS, Applied Composites can now see the plant’s capacity, how many additional people they need to hire or if there is a tool constraint issue.null

“How many plants have full scheduling software that can do almost everything?” says Moses. “With Opcenter APS, we can accomplish everything from capacity planning to giving the shop floor technicians a visual board of what they need to work on in order that also allows them to see their monthly on-time delivery stats.”

Another major benefit of this solution was achieving on-time delivery on average 96 to 98 percent of the time. “By leveraging Opcenter APS, we can react to changes quicker,” says Moses. Since the company could react quicker, technicians could solve issues as soon as they received notification.

“Using Opcenter, we haven’t dipped below 96 percent for on-time delivery except maybe one or two times during the COVID supply shortage,” says Moses.

By implementing a data-driven solution like Opcenter APS, Applied Composites needs to keep its data accurate. This not only ensures that the solution continues to work but also helps the company standardize its processes and prioritize correcting data inaccuracies, keeping the company streamlined.

Overall, by implementing Opcenter APS, Applied Composites has a solution that is flexible enough to grow with its business and has almost doubled the number of scheduled operations.nullnull

Revolutionizing Space Engineering: The OX Origin Story with Siemens

In the vast expanse of space, there are pioneers on a relentless quest to unlock the mysteries of the cosmos and push the boundaries of human exploration. One such pioneer is OX Origin, a Romanian startup with a singular mission: to propel humankind towards the stars. Founded by visionaries Alex Bugnar and Ilie Ciobanu, OX Origin is not just another player in the aerospace industry; it’s a revolutionary force redefining how we approach space systems and software engineering.

Breaking Boundaries in Space Technology

OX Origin’s founders are on a mission to bridge the gap between conventional space technology and cutting-edge design and engineering practices. Co-founder Ilie Ciobanu notes, “The tools being used in the space industry are falling behind when it comes to design and engineering technology. Not in the technology they produce, but the technology that’s being used, especially the software tools that tend to be older than the latest state-of-the-art software.”

Ciobanu keenly observes that the challenge lies not in the quality of the technology created but in the tools used to manage these projects. He believes that the industry’s reluctance to embrace the latest technology is holding back progress, and this is precisely what OX Origin aims to change.

The Visionaries Behind OX Origin

The journey of OX Origin began when Bugnar and Ciobanu crossed paths during their early professional careers in Oxford, United Kingdom, inspiring the name “OX Origin.” Their qualifications and areas of expertise make them a dynamic duo:

  • Alex Bugnar holds a master’s degree (MSc) in Ultra Precision Technologies and a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Telecommunications Engineering. He specializes in software engineering at OX Origin.
  • Ilie Ciobanu possesses a BSc in Astronautics Engineering and an MSc in Space Technology, focusing on the design and consulting aspects of their business.

Their collaboration and complementary skills were the catalysts for founding OX Origin in 2020. Beyond personal chemistry, they saw an opportunity to help and educate fellow space industry professionals.

In Pursuit of the Stars: StarLeap and MARS

While OX Origin’s overarching mission is ambitious, they are actively developing solutions to realize it. One such solution is StarLeap, an enterprise web-based platform designed to manage the end-to-end design process of complex space systems. Additionally, they offer MARS, a solution designed to assist mechanical engineers in verifying bolted joints and ensuring associated safety margins through bolt static analysis.

In addition to their proprietary solutions, OX Origin harnesses the power of Siemens software solutions in their projects:

  • NX for design
  • Simcenter for simulation
  • Nastran for computations
  • Teamcenter Share for collaboration

Ilie Ciobanu, the primary software user, shares his perspective, stating, “Compared to other solutions on the market, I feel Siemens’ is the most connected.”

He highlights the seamless integration between NX and Simcenter, allowing for extensive design analysis. This compatibility enables OX Origin to explore various configurations, assess mechanical, thermal, and static performance, and select the best design to meet client requirements.

Collaboration Made Effortless with Teamcenter Share

With Teamcenter Share, OX Origin effortlessly collaborates with clients across the globe. This cloud-based platform facilitates the secure sharing of files, models, and simulation results. Permissions can be assigned to ensure data security. Clients can then actively participate in processing, modeling, and simulating the data while providing feedback and desired adjustments.

Beyond collaboration, Teamcenter Share serves as a central hub for storing and managing data and streamlining client tasks and activities. According to Ciobanu, “It makes life easier and helps us manage the tasks and activities of the clients we work with.”

How Northrop Grumman supercharged their digital transformation with PLM

Product: Teamcenter
Industry: Aerospace

Northrop Grumman Corporation is an American multinational aerospace and defense technology company focused on digital transformation. With 90,000 employees and an annual revenue in excess of $30 billion, it is one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers and military technology providers. Altair Kaminski, PLM Systems & Digital Strategy Manager, works in the propulsion systems division, which develops solid rocket motors for the space sector.

The propulsion systems division of Northrop Grumman uses Siemens’ product lifecycle management products to support its digital transformation goals, including for CAD management and manufacturing applications.

Verification management in complex product development environments

For aerospace manufacturers, certification is everything. In addition to already strict regulations, today’s aerospace and defense companies face additional demands for advancements such as aggressive sustainability targets and autonomous aircraft options, which require more integrated systems driven by software and electronics.

While managing the development of their highly complex product line, Northrop Grumman are acutely aware of these challenges. First and foremost, they must meet customer expectations to deliver new products and updates to existing products to market as fast as possible.

To expedite certification and bring products to market faster, it is essential for Northrop Grumman to drive efficiencies to their business processes and operations. When presented with a challenge like change management, product developers need to understand not only why a change is being made, but what impacts a change will have across the entire array of the product.

Reconciling a single change can be extremely tedious when the product data isn’t connected or in context for certification. The problem becomes exacerbated when one change must be multiplied across millions of parts and hundreds of suppliers. To ensure they have the right tools in place to support their programs, Northrop Grumman enlisted Siemens to aid them in their journey toward organizational digital transformation.

Embracing digital transformation

Kaminski and her group have embraced the concept of digital transformation. Digital transformation refers to the adoption of data and digital solutions for business activities and processes. With their PLM system serving as the backbone for enablement, digital transformation engages people with digital workflows to promote the full advantage of technology investments across an organization.

“Data is key to gaining information, but connecting it is where the real power of digital transformation comes from,” said Kaminski.

PLM is used by Northrop Grumman as a massive hub for storing and managing the information required to establish a digital thread throughout their product lifecycle. It helps to tie the relationships between data together, bring in additional information, and connect to external systems.

A system of systems approach in action

To support their digital transformation, Northrop Grumman has established a product lifecycle digital thread. The PLM system serves as the digital thread backbone, connecting information across functional domains and operational disciplines to enable individual functions to operate as a collaborative unit. This “system of systems” approach opens the door to explore powerful cross-functional capabilities like digital twins.

We were able to see a 25% weight reduction by being able to have access to both the model and run a bunch of iterations on the design in order to get optimal efficiency.

– Altair Kaminski, PLM Systems & Digital Strategy Manager

For their launch abort system manifold, Northrop Grumman leveraged digital twins, coordinating physical and virtual testing to achieve significant product weight reduction. With the ability to integrate simulation and virtual testing into their project plan, Northrop Grumman can plan the certification testing and documentation in real time. The digital thread creates a fully traceable and auditable chain of data from requirements through service, reducing the reliance on physical parts testing by linking virtual and physical testing for proof of compliance.

Armed with a digitalized virtual verification and validation strategy backed by PLM, Northrop Grumman can more efficiently produce and more confidently show proof of compliance of their advanced products and achieve certification faster.

Microsoft Flight Simulator, one of the most beautiful games in the world, uses Artec Leo to recreate ultra-realistic aircraft

Product: Artec LEO
Industry: Aerospace and Defense

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Cockpit view in the game Flight Simulator

Fourteen years following the last release of the world-famous flight simulation game, on Aug, 18, 2020, Microsoft and Asobo Studio unveiled the newest edition of Flight Simulator.

Already number one on the best-selling PC games chart since its release, Microsoft Flight Simulator is a worldwide hit, boasting more than 1 million unique players, with 26 million flights already having been flown in this super realistic simulation.

To recreate the game environment, the graphics, and the plane cockpits to the peak of perfection, Asobo Studio needed to faithfully include every last detail. This is even more important since the majority of players are pilots, passionate airplane enthusiasts, and other expert gamers with extensive knowledge of flight simulators.

3D technologies to help with performance imperatives

Engineers from Asobo Studio, France’s leading independent game developer for PC and consoles based in Bordeaux, used 3D scanning technologies to recreate with true-to-life precision the planes’ cockpits in the game, making even the tiniest details more realistic in this new release of Microsoft Flight Simulator.Microsoft Flight Simulator

Asobo vehicle designer scanning the inside of an aircraft with Artec Leo

This is why teams from Asobo Studio had to visit various runways to digitize multiple planes, ranging from aerobatic two-seaters all the way up to jumbo jets, with every aircraft scanned meticulously.

Those scanning operations took only a few weeks, and were accomplished with the help of the handheld 3D scanner Artec Leo, a device capable of scanning 80 frames per second, and operated via a simple touchscreen. The scanner was provided by 3D Numérisation, an Artec 3D partner.

This way, Artec Leo was used to rapidly capture the colors, shapes, and precise dimensions of a Robin DR 400 aircraft, as well as many other planes.

Once the planes are scanned, the data is then processed in Artec Studio software, where the scan mesh densities are reduced and optimized to match the game engine requirements before the scans are exported for further development. Artec Studio allows the user to create, edit, and process all the 3D data at hand, whatever the size, or resolution of the object being captured. Each scanned aircraft needs around one working day of software processing in order to be ready for export.

Ease of use, ultra-realism, and time saving

Artec Leo, which is capable of scanning any type of object, was also used to digitize other parts of the aircraft, such as the landing gear and fuselage.

It is obviously much faster to scan an existing object than to recreate it from scratch using 3D modeling software. 3D scanning technologies allow users to digitally bring to life an object identical to its real-world counterpart. To show how fast the process is, scanning a plane took from half a day to one day, depending on its size. Entire cockpits and landing gear could be captured in merely an hour.Microsoft Flight Simulator

Ultra-realistic aircraft models are tested inside the simulator

“We could capture a huge amount of data in such a short time, while changing the angle of scanning very quickly,” said Nicolas Favre, Vehicle Artist at Asobo Studio. “During the digitization process, the only difficulty was to find enough distance to scan the instrument panel inside the cockpit, which is a narrow cabin. Without 3D scanning, it would have been way longer and more difficult to reproduce such a high level of precision, especially for the many knobs and buttons inside the cockpit.”

“3D scanning was crucial in regards to time savings, and let us skip some quality control checks from different aircraft manufacturers who had to give us their authorization to validate our work. With 3D scan technologies, we could go directly to the modelization phase while earning trust and credibility from the manufacturers, who could verify the accuracy of our aircraft and cockpit models in our game,” explained Gabriel Turot, Vehicle Artist at Asobo Studio.

Asobo Studio, always up-to-date with the latest technologies, considers this 3D scanning project as a “Laboratory for ideas” to eventually use on other future projects, with the objective to create even more realistic video games.

Andrey Vakulenko, Chief Business Development Officer of Artec 3D, concluded “With this approach to simulation game development, anyone can virtually step inside an aircraft cockpit that’s vividly identical to the original. It is simply stunning to experience the results delivered by Asobo Studio for creating the planes in Flight Simulator. The Artec Leo scanner is normally used for the design of actual aircraft, and ensuring quality control of their parts. It is exciting to know that now everyone can enjoy 3D models of these planes with a level of quality chiefly used by aeronautical engineers. This opens the gates for countless developers across the video game industry, but also in virtual reality and augmented reality as well.”

easyJet Cuts Aircraft Damage Assessment Time by 80% with Geomagic Control X

Product: Geomagic Control X
Industry: Aerospace and Defense

If you’ve flown anywhere in Europe in the past two decades, chances are good that you’ve flown on easyJet. This leading European low-cost airline brings travelers to more than 30 countries on 600+ routes safely and conveniently, all while offering some of the lowest fares across the continent. How do they do it? With a focus on safety, simplicity, and operational efficiency. easyJet’s engineering organization epitomizes this ethos by putting safety at the heart of everything it does and innovating to continually improve performance and reduce costs.

easyJet assesses aircraft damage faster with Geomagic Control X

An easyJet Airbus A320 at the company’s maintenance hangar, where 3D scanning is being leveraged to improve and speed up aircraft damage assessments.

Minimizing Aircraft on Ground Time

One of the most important ways that easyJet can minimize delays and keep ticket prices low is reducing Aircraft on Ground (AOG) time. Unplanned AOG events happen when any of the company’s 298 Airbus aircraft are damaged or experience mechanical failures, and can be very costly — not to mention inconvenient to passengers. It’s clear that the faster a damaged aircraft can be checked, the better it is for the airline and its passengers. 

“One of our biggest challenges is to try and reduce the AOG time of aircraft and maintain accurate records when damage occurs,” said Andrew Knight, Fleet Structures Engineer at easyJet. While rare, hail, bird strikes, and other events can potentially damage the wings and fuselage and require inspection before flying again. Checking damage from these types of events has traditionally been a low tech, manual, and time-consuming process that requires maintenance staff to assess aircraft damage using manual measuring tools such as rulers and vernier calipers. Worse still, interpreting the extent of any damage using this technique is highly subjective and not repeatable between staff members. easyJet’s structural engineering team went looking for a modern solution to speed things up and provide more accurate, traceable results.

3D scanned deviation location using Geomagic Control X

Geomagic Control X displays the results of a dent analysis, including maximum depth and distance between each dent, based on a 3D scan of a wing flap.

Repeatable, Accurate, Mobile 3D Inspection

“We’ve been looking for a system that is easy to use for the maintenance engineer but has the ability to provide more in-depth reports if required by support staff. It must be accurate, repeatable and most of all, mobile, as AOG events can occur anywhere within our network of 136 destinations across Europe,” Knight continued. “The biggest challenge was the software side because it needed to be a simple, easy-to-use interface to obtain a basic damage report, but powerful enough to provide more in-depth details in the support offices. 3D scanning should provide us with accurate, fast damage assessment with repeatable results independent of the experience of the user.”

For these reasons, easyJet turned to 3D Systems reseller OR3D, a UK firm with expertise in 3D scanning and Geomagic software. Robert Wells, a 3D scanning expert at OR3D, reported that “based on easyJet’s requirement to quickly scan large areas — such as the entire wing length of an Airbus A320 — on the tarmac, we recommended a portable handheld 3D scanner. And we knew Geomagic Control X™ was the right software because they needed an automated way to assess dents that was easy for their staff to learn and use.” With this solution, performing a damage assessment on the roughly 70 feet (21 meters) of an A320’s flaps takes just a few hours, compared to several days with wax rubbings on tracing paper, saving easyJet tens of thousands of Pounds/Euros per damage event.

Geomagic Control X inspection shows dent locations to easyJet quickly and accurately

The location and severity of damage is instantly recognizable during assessment of flight surfaces. Repair decisions can be made quickly and with a high level of confidence.

Instant Reporting for Fast Documentation

Once the scans are complete, easyJet engineers can get damage reports from Geomagic Control X software on the spot. They don’t need to load CAD models or align the scan data to anything else in the software, and they don’t need to have deep metrology expertise to get reliable output. Control X uses its CAD engine to automatically create idealized geometry that meets standards for surface continuity that are defined by Airbus, and measures the scanned aircraft against that idealized geometry to provide instant results. Within minutes, easyJet engineers have a consistent, repeatable, and thoroughly documented initial damage report that lets them decide what repairs, if any, are needed before the aircraft can be placed back into service.

Powerful 3D Inspection That’s Easy to Learn

easyJet has embraced Control X for large-scale damage assessments because it’s so accessible for busy engineers with many other responsibilities. Knight remarked on this specifically, saying “engineers will not use the system if it is too complex and requires in-depth software knowledge and/or extensive training.” Control X fulfills these requirements better than any other scan-based inspection software because it’s intuitive, easy to learn, and powerful enough to handle complex measurement scenarios. Anyone familiar with using 3D software can pick up Control X and get results in a matter of minutes, with the flexibility to measure what they need to, without pre-programming or inflexible macros.

What does this new, modern approach to damage inspection mean for easyJet? “We have estimated an approximate 80% savings in time to perform assessments using the 3D systems we currently have with a potential 80% savings in currency terms,” says Knight. There are additional benefits beyond reduced AOG time and better decision-making regarding repairs as well: keeping detailed damage reports, complete with accurate scan data, can help the company years from now when it comes time to sell or return aircraft to their leaseholders.

easyJet’s use of Control X is another example of how simple, intuitive inspection software helps companies ensure quality everywhere by empowering more people to measure more things in more places.

Quality control of composites in the aerospace industry

Product: HandySCAN
Industry: Aerospace and Defense

Lufthansa Technik AG (LHT) is a provider of MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) services for aircraft and has 50 locations worldwide. LHT is wholly owned by Deutsche Lufthansa AG and comprises 32 technical maintenance companies and subsidiaries in Europe, Asia and America, along with more than 26,000 employees (as of 2019).

LHT is based at Hamburg Airport. Other important German locations are the two Lufthansa hubs Frankfurt Rhein-Main and Munich as well as the Berlin Tegel Airport (Line Maintenance) and Schönefeld (C-Checks).

Control of Material Expansion

The ARC® – Airframe Related Components division overhauls and repairs fan reversers, engine cowlings, flight controls, aircraft noses (radomes), and other secondary structure composite components. In addition to maintenance work, repair, developments, all types of material support, and logistics solutions are provided. These services are offered for civil aircraft and nearly all popular aircraft types.

To repair the above-mentioned components, adhesive trays made of carbon or glass fiber are used. Shapes and contours must be checked regularly. The production process takes place under the influence of pressure and temperature variations in an autoclave, so that the material can expand. The extent of the expansion is determined by periodic scans. It is not a one-off project—but a regular measure to ensure quality standards.

Immagini della scansione di un muso di aereo

Screenshots of a scanned aircraft nose

The actual state is checked with Creaform’s HandySCAN 3D scanner or, for large objects, with the photogrammetry camera MaxSHOT 3D and compared with a CAD model (target state). On the software side, the data acquisition software, VXelements, is used for data acquisition. On top of providing reliable measurements, Creaform systems are used for other applications, such as reverse engineering, with the help of VXmodel scan-to-CAD software module.

Decision Criteria and ROI

Before LHT started using Creaform systems, measurements, data processing and reverse engineering were provided by a third-party company. The quality of the data as well as the duration of implementation and flexibility in changing conditions led to the decision to purchase hardware and software, thereby building the company’s internal know-how.

Decisive for the choice of the measuring systems were the compactness of the devices as well as the simple data acquisition with the HandySCAN 3D scanner. With these key features, it is possible to capture complex geometries with relatively little effort. In addition, the accuracy for the intended applications is sufficiently high. The MaxSHOT 3D helps to ensure unprecedented accuracy even for larger objects. Currently, the measurement systems are used exclusively in a workshop environment under (mostly) controlled, climatic conditions.

La telecamera per fotogrammetria MaxSHOT 3D misura oggetti di grandi dimensioni con precisione elevataPhotogrammetry camera MaxSHOT 3D measures large objects with high accuracy“The control of the material expansion could have been measured with other common measuring systems, but the price-performance ratio and the compactness of the 3D measuring systems from Creaform made the decision easy. In addition, the customer service is impeccable,” explained Gunnar Hinrichs, who works at the Airframe Related Components Department at LHT. “In terms of ROI, the purchase has also paid off, even if we do not yet have any meaningful data. But it is likely, according to our own estimate, to have a give-figure amount in the lower segment, which we save on outsourcing. If we detect quality deviations at an early stage by using the Creaform technology, we can prevent unnecessary costs and therefore expensive reworking at the customers’ sites.”

Compact, Simple and Flexible

The experience with the Creaform systems is positive. “We can respond much faster and more flexibly to measurement tasks, discuss the measurement results directly at the measured component, and share information with other stakeholders. The systems consistently convince us we made the right decision with their compactness and simplicity of use. A measurement process, including pre- and post-processing (assembly, attachment of the targets, etc.), is completed within 2-3 hours. The data is available in real time. The software interface is well-implemented, understandable and clear. The training provided by Creaform is outstanding and the employees are always available for advice and support. That’s the way you want it to be,” said Hinrichs.


Product: HandySCAN
Industry: Aerospace and Defense

US Department of Defense Uses 3D Measurement to Solve Maintenance Challenges

The United States military sector is faced with a host of technical challenges when it comes to maintenance, repair and engineering. Aircraft only have value if they are flight worthy. Personnel responsible for this need efficient and effective means to reduce risks, costs, and maintenance turnaround.

3D scanning instruments and technologies remedy discrepancies due to user errors, they allow for time-saving MRO and reverse engineering operations, and are effective for providing CAD files for 3D-printed replacement aircraft parts and prototypes.

Metrology Hardships in Military: What Can 3D Measurement Do to Help?

Army sergent 3D scans an aircraft structure at Air Force Base

Tech. Sgt. Kevin Collins, 366th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology section chief scans an aircraft structure at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, March 2, 2020. The HandySCAN 3D allows Airmen to scan a structure, eliminating the need to hand draw it on the computer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Natalie Rubenak)

Heavy aircraft maintenance often means long-term grounding, resulting from errors in custom repairs.

Since reliable CAD data is typically not available, the aircraft must be measured to make repairs. Measurement discrepancies typically result from the lack of adequate tools to measure multiple objects and complex surfaces in addition to the challenges to inspect a wide range of part sizes, finishes and colors.

In a nutshell, 3D scanning devices and technologies can be used to accelerate reverse engineering, MRO operations and 3D printing applications, thus increasing mission effectiveness.

  1. Reverse Engineering – Manual to Digital
  2. MRO – Streamlining Inspection and Structure Damage Analysis
  3. Align and Mate: The Bell Helicopter Case

Reverse engineering process: From manual to digital

The 366th Maintenance Squadron (MXS) at Mountain Home Air Force Base (MHAFB) acquired a Creaform HandySCAN 3D handheld 3D scanner to scan large aircraft structures quickly and efficiently.

Prior to using the device, MHAFB Airmen would use “facsimile mold” to fix broken parts or recreate structures. The main issue with facsimile mold is that it takes 48 hours to dry. “When it is done drying, you take it out and still have to go in and measure everything and hand draw it on the computer. It [is] so time consuming,” says Tech. Sgt. Kevin Collins, 366th MXS aircraft metals technology section chief. This tedious reverse engineering process consisting in manually designing models on the computer puts the personnel at the mercy of user errors and premature maintenance.

3D scanners provide the data required to perform full-scale engineering, manufacturing and development of parts and structures. 3D scanning for reverse engineering removes the user error factor and provides unmatched traceability for documentation purposes. Also, device portability means on-site analyses, and reduction of inspection times. 3D scanners are critical tools to support solid reverse engineering processes.

The model above was scanned using a HandySCAN BLACK portable 3D scanner; you can zoom in and see the level of detail around the edges, the holes, the bends and the fasteners. This complex, large part (680 mm X 320 mm X 60 mm) displays several features which would be difficult to measure without 3D scanning instruments.

Another problem faced by MHAFB Airmen is that of accuracy. The mold would often provide little to no accurate results, which would eventually lead to rework and wasted time. “With the scanner, we never run into that issue. In fact, it’s accurate up to about 0.025 mm,” Collins said.

Parts manufactured following this type of reverse engineering process can be quickly and accurately compared to CAD drawings to control 3D dimensional quality.

2. MRO – Streamlining Inspection and Structure Damage Analysis

Fairfield’s Travis AFB, via the 60th MXS, reported using various innovative strategies to improve mission effectiveness and reduce wasted time. The Air Force allocated $64 million in Squadron Innovation Funds to “increase readiness, reduce cost, save time and enhance the lethality of the force,” said Joshua Orr, 60th MXS. Among the new technologies were 3D printing and 3D scanning; the former using the latter to print and replace aircraft parts that suffered damage.

In one notorious case, a C-5 aircraft had been damaged by hail, resulting in numerous dents and scratches on all of the plane’s panels. Every 180 days, Travis Airmen would inspect the aircraft to locate and measure the dents that were still on the wing’s surface. Using traditional measurement tools and methods, performing this task would take around 48 hours. But equipped with a Creaform HandySCAN 3D and SmartDENT 3D, the Airmen were able to complete the inspection in 30 minutes. Unlike manual dent measurement methods, SmartDENT uses good material around damage to create reference surface and provide reliable measures.

Joshua Orr, 60th MXS, uses a Creaform HandySCAN 700 to capture digital information to render a three-dimensional image of an aircraft part into specialized computer software.

“We had that C-5 in our hangar last week and we were able to inspect the four primary structural panels in 30 minutes.”

Master Sgt. Christopher Smithling 60th Maintenance Squadron assistant section chief for aircraft structural maintenance

Moreover, the procurement of two additive manufacturing units by the 60th MXS will undoubtedly unlock development, repair, replacement and production capabilities at Travis AFB. Aircraft are typically down for two days when a replacement part is needed. However, a solution comprising a 3D scanning device, scan-to-CAD technology and 3D printing can dramatically decrease out-of-service time. “With the two additive manufacturing units, we will be able to grab any aircraft part, scan it, and within four to eight hours, we will have a true 3D drawing of it that we can send to the additive manufacturing unit to print it,” said Christopher Smithling, 60th MXS.

Back to the hail storm matter, Creaform developed a complete 3D scanning solution for the aerospace industry named HandySCAN AEROPACK. It addresses the specific challenges of aircraft quality control, such as assessing damage resulting from aircraft incidents and natural phenomena, like hail, as well as flap and spoiler inspections. The 3D scanner and software package includes VXinspect, VXmodel, SmartDENT 3D and provides the most versatile solution for a maintenance base/MRO facility.

Leading edge of stabilizer of a Boeing 767 damaged by hail
3D scan of the leading edge of a Boeing 767 aircraft using a 3D scanner
Analysis of leading edge of a Boeing 767 stabilizer in SmartDENT 3D. Total analysis/reporting time is 30 minutes for full stabilizer damage assessment with a 25-micron accuracy compared to 1-2 days with traditional manual methods.
Sample dent inspection on an aircraft. Feature measurements with out of tolerance maximum depth.

3. Align and Mate: The Bell Helicopter Case

At their Amarillo factory in Texas, Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. company, performed the mating of heavy components with the V-280 Valor’s fuselage, a medium-lift tiltrotor transport prototype aimed at “[rekindling] the Army’s interest in tiltrotors.” First, nacelles were attached to the wing, and then the nacelles-wing assembly was attached to the fuselage. These complex operations require vivid attention to detail, bearing in mind the extreme accuracy with which the massive components must be oriented and positioned prior to the mating process.

Multiple C-Tracks and the Creaform VXtrack software module for dynamically tracking multiple objects came in handy to accurately measure the position and orientation of the components of this assembly in real time, as they are assembled (in this case, the tiltrotor’s wing, nacelles and fuselage).

V-280 Valor wing mating at Bell Helicopter Amarillo. Photo courtesy of Bell Helicopter.

Bottom line, the benefits of 3D technologies along with dedicated software are direct and substantial over conventional metrology. Components were positioned in hours, rather than days. Time savings on measurements, increased accuracy, removing user error and unmatched traceability, are just some of the benefits of state-of-the-art measurement technology.

MRO: How to Choose the Best 3D Measurement Solution?

To choose the right 3D measurement solution for your maintenance, repair and engineering project, start by mapping out your current 3D measurement or inspection process, and identify the major, most recurring problems of your workflow and opportunities for improvement.

Of course, accuracy, portability and price all make great impact on decision making, but the more information you can get about the target application and the results you want to generate, the better your choice will be.

Considerations with respect to object dimensions, environment, processing speed and software compatibility will help you find the solution that best fits your needs. That way you will probably be able to start simple and scale things up along the way.

For instance, decision-makers in the aerospace MRO industry will tend to orient their choice based on the fact that the objects to scan are relatively large, that the environment greatly affects the surfaces, and that time is of the essence: the longer aircraft are grounded, the more stakeholders lose money.

Do not hesitate to reach out to various providers to ask for a demonstration and discuss your current challenges with 3D measurement specialists. Creaform offers a full suite of 3D solutions for this type of work: metrology graded, truly portable, fast and versatile. We maintain an ISO 17025 accredited in-house calibration laboratory and can provide unmatched support across the world. Creaform offers traceable solutions that will provide you measurements you can rely on.


Product: HandySCAN
Industry: Aerospace and Defense

EADS (European Aeronautic Defense and Space company) is a worldwide leader in aerospace, defense, and associated services. The company has been using Creaform portable 3D measurement products for several years.

More specifically, EADS uses both the HandySCAN 3D and the MetraSCAN 3D optical CMM scanner for scanning tooling and composite parts (carbon/epoxy) and for making parts/CAD comparisons. For its probing needs, EADS uses the HandyPROBE optical CMM. In addition to using VXelements, the data acquisition software behind all Creaform systems, EADS additionally uses the VXtrack module for dynamic measurements, as well as VXlocate, a software module developed through a partnership between Creaform and EADS.

HandySCAN 3D Application Example

As part of a study on the possible geometric distortion of carbon fiber composite parts and with the help of a HandySCAN 3D device, EADS scanned a 1 000 mm x 800 mm tooling equipment, as well as 650 mm x 300 mm parts, to assess post-manufacturing deformation.

Parts on tooling

Parts on tooling

First, EADS scanned the tooling, in order to verify its compliance with the CAD plan.

Scanning the tooling with the HandySCAN 3D

Scanning the tooling with the HandySCAN 3D 

Then, two parts manufactured with this tooling were scanned, and the scanning files were compared.

Scanning the parts and results
Scanning the parts and results

Scanning the parts and results 

Results: tooling/parts gap

Results: tooling/parts gap


The second step consists of using very powerful simulation tools to estimate the distortion of the parts before manufacturing, in order to compare the manufacturing parts scanning files.



The results EADS obtained made it possible to validate the simulation software, which was developed to optimize the manufacturing range by identifying adequate parameters and processes.

This project could have been completed with a fringe projection scanning system, but the one EADS owns cannot be used for such large surfaces, and the process is a lot more complex when it comes to measuring the two faces of the composite parts. Additionally, a CMM could have been used, but this possibility came with two drawbacks: one-off measurements, which in turn lead to a much longer acquisition time.

“ The Creaform system enabled us to quickly scan the metallic tooling and the carbon fiber composite parts. Many other systems that are available on the market do not work very well on these composite parts, which aspect is very dark and sometimes very glossy. The equipment being so portable made it possible for us to record the measurements right at the manufacturing site,” explained Ms. Catherine Bosquet, from the EADS Structure Health Engineering (NDT & SHM) department.

“ Before using Creaform’s systems, we used fringe projection, since we purchased a HOLO3 system over 15 years ago. We also tested other available systems (Konica Minolta, Metris, Steinbichler, Aicon, Kreon Technologies, Ettemeyer, GOM), but the Creaform 3D measurement solutions convinced us, because of their quick set up and acquisition, ease of use, measurement performance for many types of surface states, as well as their portability.We must also mention that Creaform experts are always highly available and responsive.”