Accuracy in aerospace

The importance of force measurement in aerospace manufacturing


In 1899, brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright began experimenting with the concept of air travel. After years of research, observing the angle of birds’ wings and the engineering of bicycles and motors, the Wright brothers finally succeeded in 1903. Their aircraft managed to reach 852 feet in 59 seconds, but modern planes are a far cry away from such early attempts at aviation. In fact, today’s air travel is considered safer than moving over land or sea. Here, John Cove, marketing manager at Starrett, explains the role that accurate engineering plays in modern aerospace manufacturing.

Accuracy and force measurement testing are necessary requirements in every industry. For instance, consider the force required to tap the screen on your smartphone or push buttons on your remote control. Most of us do these things without thinking, but even for these small, every day devices, force measurement has to be considered.

Historically, force measurement tests were calculated by using a series of mathematical equations, known as Newton’s first, second and third law. In recent years, force testing has been limited to handheld metrology devices. While faster than lengthy calculations and more accurate than guesswork, these machines do not provide the levels of precision needed for sophisticated applications.

Designing parts and components for the aerospace industry requires extremely high levels of accuracy. Lack of attention to detail and production errors simply cannot happen.. In fact, you would be hard pushed to find another sector where precision is such a vital consideration. In an industry with copious regulatory requirements – and high costs for failing to meet standards – ensuring that components are safe, fully functional and reliable could not be more important.

The AS9100 group of standards, for example, is a series of regulatory requirements that are specific to aerospace manufacturing. The regulations ensure that manufacturers produce components within a strict quality controlled environment, to guarantee reliability and safety of an aircraft. This quality assurance is particularly important for mass manufacturing environments, where busy production lines are expected to produce a high volume of precise, identical parts and components.

Meeting these standards is not a simple task, but to simplify quality management and improve accuracy, manufacturers are choosing sophisticated force measurement and metrology systems to test the components they make. Starrett’s force measurement software, L2 Plus, for example, can provide a comprehensive analysis of a measurement test – providing exact force measurement results from simple peak load measurement to more complex break determination.

By exporting measurement data through USB or wirelessly across Bluetooth, manufacturers can access data and insight far beyond the basic figures provided by other force measurement approaches. Inputting the requirements of a part, material or component allows the software to generate high-resolution graphs based on load, distance, height and time of measurement. In addition, in the case of the Starrett L2 plus system, historical test data is archived and available to analyse at a later date, helping speed up future tests and navigating potential problems or errors.

This intelligent software increases the accuracy of force measurement, while also improving precision for engineers designing and creating components. By gaining complete control with a system like this, design engineers are less restricted and can, be more innovative with their designs. What’s more, quality control managers can rest assured that parts will meet industry standards and, as a result, are less likely to fall victim to manufacturing errors.

Despite the impressive achievements of the Wright brothers, their history-making plane did not survive long after its first day in the air as the aircraft was caught in a strong gust of wind while on the ground and was damaged beyond repair. Since 1903, the aviation industry has come a long way and with it, the ambitions of aerospace engineers have evolved too.

The next century is bound to witness even greater leaps in aerospace engineering, and the capabilities of force measurement systems will have to evolve too. Leaders in the aerospace industry need to incorporate the latest force measurement technology into their processes to ensure they don’t miss take off.