From chicken wings to robotic inspection of composite structures

If you were to Google the phrase ‘Wingbox Checker’, amongst the numerous references to chicken wings, you’re likely to find a link to a device which has nothing to do with chickens. The Wingbox Checker is an innovative tool which ensures that the plane you might find yourself flying on is fit for purpose. Here’s some background on how it came about… OMS was approached by an aerospace organisation to tackle a particularly tricky problem, one with seemingly impossible challenges. One of those challenges was the need to survey the inside of a number of tapering carbon fibre wing box segments that ranged in size from around 100 mm square, up to 700 mm x 500 mm over a distance of 12 metres. The accuracy of the survey had to be within 0.25 mm. A requirement was to measure the shape of cross-sections of the structure at regular intervals, then stitch these segments together to provide a CAD model of the inside spaces of the entire tail plane of a Boeing Dreamliner. Of course, there were time constraints too, as the survey had to be achieved in less than an hour per section.

Our client had experience of inspecting these components. Some years previously they had commissioned a company to produce a prototype unit to carry out such work, but they were still using a trial device which produced limited results. Our task was to start again and produce a ‘professional’ version, fit for one of the world’s largest plane manufacturers on their most advanced model to date - the Dreamliner.

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