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PLM, Augmented Reality Sharpen the Cutting Edge

Stuart Weiler
By Stuart Weiler Director of PLM, Elite Aerospace Group

Aerospace and defense manufacturing is known for its complex designs, continual changes and the need to negotiate tight margin requirements. At Elite Aviation Products (EAP), a division of Elite Aerospace Group (Irvine, CA), we face these challenges every day. Meeting customer requirements and maintaining the highest quality standards, as well as meeting regulatory requirements, are key concerns for EAP.

Traditional machine shops sometimes struggle to meet these requirements or they meet them but at a high operating cost. To excel in this environment while maintaining cost control, EAP uses PTC’s Windchill PLM system today, and will be adding augmented reality (AR) processes in the future.

Responding to RFQs

The first step in securing any manufacturing work is to accurately respond to a Request for Quote (RFQ). This is where EAP begins to utilize the capabilities of Windchill PLM software. In manual processes, RFQs can become lost in the shuffle, but our customers get rapid responses generated each time via Windchill using established procedures and workflows that are consistently followed. There is no risk of an inaccurate quote being written because a process step was inadvertently omitted; instead, the process moves quickly and a notification system helps us complete the project quickly and accurately.

EAP uses Windchill throughout the entire manufacturing process. Once EAP wins a contract, our PLM system stores customer data to meet document management requirements. This ensures compliance to industry standards such as AS9100. Customer documents are revision controlled, reviewed, and released.

In other systems, when a customer makes a change, the cost of that change can easily be overlooked or missed entirely; if parts are made at the wrong revision level, manufacturing costs quickly rise. In our system, Windchill is used to review, accept and incorporate any customer changes. This guarantees that impact analysis of customer changes occurs before manufacturing begins, and that those changes are included in work instructions and cutter path development.

Using Windchill’s revision control and change management features, EAP eliminates rework and scrapped parts. The latest work instructions are always available and we consistently produce the correct revision of every product.

Looking Ahead to AR

As for the future, we are now looking at using augmented reality (AR) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to solve key manufacturing problems. For example, assemblies can have multiple screw sizes. Work instructions and/or drawings show where each size of screw goes, but this may require technicians to look back and forth from drawings to assemblies. If thread sizes are the same but the lengths of the screws vary, an incorrect screw may be installed.

Instead of using a drawing that shows screw locations, imagine using AR glasses to locate them. As you look at the product, the locations of each screw type are highlighted. To assemble the product, the employee puts a screw in each location as shown. The AR glasses can specify additional information, such as torque to be applied at each location. This greatly reduces chances of manufacturing errors and speeds up assembly. AR glasses can identify and provide alerts for assembly problems, eliminating the disassembly and reassembly processes required to fix a mistake.

EAP is ready to embrace the IoT. Using PTC’s ThingWorx dashboard to connect and monitor machine tools, when foremen check on machines they will see real-time status displayed on every machine. As assemblers build products, data will reduce assembly time and prevent errors. When quality inspectors check a product, instead of marking a drawing as they take measurements, they will see the measurements overlaid and use them to create digital quality reports. The data collected via the IoT and displayed in AR will allow for better products, fewer schedule disruptions, higher quality and a more reliable supply chain.

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