New technology enhances quality and safety of military aircraft
Collaboration between RIT, US Navy and industry promotes use of new methods of structural analysisNew technology utilized by engineers at Rochester Institute of Technology is assisting the United States Navy in the sustainment and improvement of their aircraft.
Michael Haselkorn, senior staff engineer at RIT's Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies, is leading a team of professors and scientists along with engineers from Acro Industries, a local Rochester manufacturer, in a major project to redesign and improve numerous components of the Navy's EA-6B jet. The improved design of these parts will reduce costs and improve the safety of the EA-6B, one of the Navy's key aircraft types.
"This project is a unique opportunity to combine the latest scientific innovation with the capabilities of private industry to address key issues of our nation's military fleet," Haselkorn says. "The project is advancing scientific knowledge in the field, promoting a local company and enhancing the quality of Naval aircraft. It really is a win-win all the way around."
Haselkorn is currently working with Raymond Grosshans, professor of industrial and science technology at RIT to utilize new laser scanning technology to create a three-dimensional digital schematic of the turtleback, the metal cover over the EA-6B's fuselage. They use the schematic to build a solid model from which they can perform a structural analysis of the part to identify flaws and improve quality. This analysis was previously incredibly time consuming due to lack of accurate schematics, making improved manufacture of parts extremely difficult.
"We apply the newest scanning methods to provide an analysis of the dimensions and schematics of the turtleback, information that was previously not available in this detail," Grosshans explains. "This data is essential in analyzing the structure of parts to enhance quality and increase useful life."
The process is part of the Navy's effort to improve the design of the turtleback, which has been susceptible to corrosion and maintenance issues in the past, adding additional costs to the EA-6B.
The Navy is now working with Acro and Haselkorn's team to build flight-ready prototypes of the turtleback. Tests are set to begin in the spring.
"Acro Industries is pleased to be working in cooperation with RIT to combine new technologies along with our manufacturing expertise supporting our military's requirements," adds Joseph Noto Sr., president of Acro Industries.
Haselkorn and Grosshans worked with two additional companies, Romer Cim Core and NVision Inc., to develop the scanning technology, which includes a portable mechanical arm, laser and camera system. They eventually hope to use the system for other commercial opportunities in manufacturing and structural analysis.
"This technology can be used in numerous industries to transform existing parts and structures into digital models that can then be analyzed, redesigned and improved," Haselkorn adds. "With this technology, the sky really is the limit; it's fast, accurate and portable."
Haselkorn's research is part of a broader collaboration involving the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies, RIT faculty, private industry and the United States military to apply technological innovation and scientific advancements to current issues surrounding parts, equipment and systems in a wide variety of military operations.
"We are very pleased to assist the Navy in the development of this incredibly important technology," says Nabil Nasr, center director and assistant provost for academic affairs at RIT. "The Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies prides itself on our ability to solve real-world problems through the use of innovative technologies and cutting edge research."
For more information about the EA-6B project, including photos, please visit RIT's Web site at http://www.sms.rit.edu/projects.aspx.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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