QMT Features: September 2011
Laser measurement at Eurocopter
The tooling team at helicopter manufacturer, Eurocopter, relies on advanced laser tracker metrology on their assignments throughout Europe.

Metrology using laser trackers has a long tradition at Eurocopter, starting in 1999 with the deployment of a first system in the Tooling, Production & Service area. This area  is primarily responsible for forms, tools and large construction equipment for subassemblies. Laser-based measurement systems were relatively unknown at the time, and consequently they were initially only employed in the manufacturing area. But soon after deployment, the widespread application potential of the technology became apparent. Eurocopter bought a second system two years later.

The systems were also put to use for inspection activities. Once again, the Tooling area was the starting point, which by now had three systems. Today, these systems are supporting measuring tasks throughout the entire group, in various  countries and on a number of aircraft, in both stationary and mobile mode.

The transition to gaugeless production at Eurocopter has led to a considerable increase in the demand for measurement systems that can also handle three-dimensional measurement. The trend towards larger and larger aircraft has resulted in an increase in the size and weight of the construction equipment at Eurocopter, adding to the complexity of the metrological tasks. And,  of course, the size of the components themselves has also increased: for example,  the carbon bottom shell for the NH 90 helicopter measures 3 x 6 metres with the  manufacturing  equipment used to build the shell itself being  considerably larger again.

Today, Eurocopter relies on laser trackers to solve its metrological assignments. The latest generation of trackers offers mobility, making them indispensable for portable use in the tooling area.  Eurocopter has more than 250 larger pieces of stationary manufacturing equipment that must be periodically measured, no matter where they are located. This work is performed by teams of one or two metrology application specialists  from the Tooling area who are responsible for using the laser tracer at the particular location.

The latest laser-based measurement system in the Eurocopter measurement fleet is an API  T3 laser tracker. It tips the scales at a mere 8.5 kg, with a head height of 36cm. This allows it to be packed in the luggage and taken along on flights. The portability of this measurement system was decisive for the selection of the API system as  the tracker was selected principally to accompany teams on their journeys all over the world

With global supply chains in this aviation sector, the required manufacturing equipment comes from Donauwörth for the most part, and, consequently, the support for this equipment is also based there. Any unforeseen problems present special challenges that call for a swift response. Having  mobile  laser tracker technology is a great advantage.  However, services are not limited to global metrological activities.

"External service providers could also handle purely metrological assignments where necessary" explains Albert Wodstrschil from the Tooling, Production and Service area at Eurocopter Deutschland. "The jobs that we are called upon to do are almost always i more involved. The actual measuring is only a small portion of the solution the customer expects. We make the connection between the cause and effect much faster, because, after all, it is our own manufacturing equipment that we are measuring, adjusting and optimizing. Often what is demanded, and what we provide, is the troubleshooting, optimization and documentation of the final status within all specified tolerances."

The global support offered by the Tooling area goes beyond helicopters. The range of assignments is varied, and has included, for example, the measurement of sleep containers for Airbus crews. In their repertoire, the specialists from the Tooling area also include machine compensation for the machine tools and for ultrasound robots that guarantee 100% inspection of all carbon fibre elements of the aircraft. l



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