Aerospace has taken some major technological leaps over the years. It is difficult to imagine that after the Wright brothers tested their first motorized plane only a century ago, humans have already landed on the moon, have a permanent space station and are already on the way to Mars in such a short time. Let alone the countless number of satellites that are revolving around the earth. In addition to that, we have the Voyager spacecraft that have reached interstellar space at the time of writing this that is moving further away from breaking records for the furthest object humans have ever thrown into space.
All of these great achievements have accumulated down to impressive and advanced engineering that helped in the blooming of the aerospace industry by implementing these techniques into building these machines. Advancements in mechanical and materials engineering are one of the major contributors here.
On our planet, there are a zillion aircraft that are flying at any given time so much so that we need air traffic controllers to navigate each and every aircraft safely. This is a phenomenal accomplishment in the aerospace industry.
While building these giant birds mechanically, there are various types of mechanical joints that come into play. Bolting of assemblies together is a common method used in the industry. It is much faster to assemble and disassemble a mechanism if any rework or maintenance is required. Assembling a mechanism using screws, bolts nuts and washers is a quick and a less energy-consuming way as compared to welding or riveting. As you may know, a twisting force or torque needs to be applied to fasten a nut or a screw. The nut holds the two materials together until it is loosened by applying a torque in the reverse direction.
For a number of years, this torque was manually applied to achieve fasten the bolts. To overcome the disadvantage of the operator under/over-torquing, torque wrenches were introduced. These wrenches sound a click when the set amount of torque is achieved thereby signalling the operator that the bolt has been fastened with the correct torque. The main advantage of this was that it took away the guessing game from the minds of the operator of whether he/she had torqued the bolt correctly or not. Although this was a huge advancement in terms of assuring the operator but there was no way to convincing the end customer that the mechanisms have been assembled correctly with prescribed strength. In today’s world of automation where every effort is made to collect data, reduce the time of the process with no compromise on quality, the torque wrenches fell short.
UK based company Siam Control and Automation recently collaborated with HTL® Group of Cramlington Northumberland to develop an intelligent bolting solution for the aerospace industry.
The control system centred on RENU’s FL005 Micro PLC (distributed by ESIS in Australia) and an Industrial Panel PC coupled with Movicon™ 11, which allowed HTL to provide a solution to a major global aircraft manufacturer. This aircraft manufacturer is widely considered as a leader in the aerospace industry. The new system offers significant improvements in operator safety, accuracy, access, size, weight and ease of use.
The project involved the design and manufacture of a dedicated Tool Identification Device (TID) that could be programmed by the user with data related to the tool in use.
In its operation, the TID is connected to the RENU’s FL005 PLC via the Industrial PC, and enables the Intelligent Bolting system in the aerospace industry to automatically control and log the bolting activity.
The built-in PWM output on FL005 is used to control a back-pressure valve that allows precise pressure control ensuring that the bolt is tightened within specifications requiring no additional operator input. The Movicon™ 11 collects the data from the FL005 PLC and automatically creates a batch report that allows traceability. This report can be uploaded as a PDF file via a USB flash drive, and the system has a capability for network connection.
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Article Courtesy of RENU Electronics.