A pioneering technology called ProjectionWorks is reportedly saving aircraft manufacturers hundreds of hours and has earned its inventor, Delta Sigma Co. (Kennesaw, Ga), one of the nation’s top manufacturing innovation awards.
Projection Works is a key enabling technology in the Fastener Insertion Live Link System (FILLS), developed by Delta Sigma and collaborators and FILLS team members Variation Reduction Solutions Inc. (Plymouth, Mich.); Lockheed Martin Aerospace (Los Angeles, Calif.); and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (Redondo Beach, Calif.).
The FILLS team jointly received the U.S. Defense Department's (DoD) 2012 Defense Manufacturing Technology Achievement Award on Nov. 27 at the Defense Manufacturing Conference in Orlando, Fla. And the project has received high praise, particularly from those responsible for assembling the composites-intensive airframe structure of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"This disruptive manufacturing technology has saved more than 200 hours per plane and a potential $111 million for the F-35 program alone," says David See, project manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory (Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio). "FILLS will revolutionize how we assemble, maintain and repair our fleets — from jets to submarines to ships to satellites."
"The FILLS program automates data input and compares the data against original specifications," says Dave Thomas, the F-35 fuselage build manager in the F-35 Joint Program Office. "This allows mechanics on the assembly line to see the most recent information relative to any aircraft or product they are working on, in order to install the right part in the most efficient manner. Now dozens of mechanics on the F-35, P3, C-5 and C-130 production lines are using Delta Sigma's ProjectionWorks 3-D technology to project assembly instructions directly onto aircraft parts."
The FILLS team developed an improved "digital thread process," in which digital information collected by a computer is directly linked to the factory floor. "FILLS automates the hole measurements that are done on the assembly line and stores them in a database," says Roger Richardson, director of business development for Delta Sigma. "FILLS then automatically creates a list of fasteners that are brought to the assembly line. ProjectionWorks then projects a color-coded map, showing where the correct fasteners are to be installed, in the sequence they are to be installed. The 3-D map includes part numbers, directions and access to an encyclopedia of information."
Early adopters of ProjectionWorks have seen average savings of more than 85 hours on aircraft assembly, according to Richardson. He notes that the system has the heretofore unattainable ability to optically project undistorted 3-D instructions and symbols onto contoured surfaces.
"FILLS changes the way we think about assembling complex structures the way that CAD programs changes the way we think about designing them," contends Northrop Grumman's Joe Festa. "With this progressive technology," he predicts, "we expect to save up to $91 million for the center fuselage assembly at our Palmdale F-35 Program."
Delta Sigma opened its doors more than 20 years ago, designing and building radar cross-section measurement equipment. It expanded to include 3-D optical projection systems. For more information, visit www.deltasigmacorp.com.
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