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Delcam’s PowerINSPECT inspection software gives high-quality helicopters


Schweizer Aircraft’s 333 helicopter
Delcam’s PowerINSPECT and the Romer CimCore portable arm allow easy inspection of large tooling

The use of a Romer CimCore portable CMM with Delcam’s PowerINSPECT inspection software has added extra versatility to the extensive quality assurance capabilities and high standards for close-tolerance dimensional inspection at helicopter manufacturer Schweizer Aircraft Corp. As well as giving faster results, the new facilities have allowed the company to measure its stretch-forming and rubber moulding tools, and its large assembly fixtures that were too big for its conventional CMMs.

Schweizer Aircraft, which is based on the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport near New York, is the only American aircraft company founded before World War II that is still family-owned and family-managed. One key to Schweizer’s success is that has diversified carefully from gliders and powered aircraft into helicopters, unmanned surveillance aircraft and aircraft parts production for the military. With sales under US$50 million and less that 350 employees, Schweizer is small compared to other firms in the aviation industry, yet the workforce handles design, engineering, FAA certification, tooling, jig and fixture building, component fabrication and assembly, plus testing and field service.

"Fundamentally, portable inspection techniques are part of what allows us to do so well in so many different manufacturing processes,” said Rick Kent, Production Manager at Schweizer. "With the arm, we are able to quickly determine whether a component or tool is dimensionally accurate or whether a fixture is properly aligned and, if not, how it can best be corrected. On large components and fixtures,” he continued, "there often is no other reliable and cost-effective way to measure critical dimensions.”

"What’s most important about the Romer CimCore CMM and PowerINSPECT is the flexibility it gives us in measuring things quickly and in whatever ways we think will give us the best data,” Mr. Kent said. "It is much faster to measure tooling on the factory floor, right where it is used, especially if reference planes must be established first.”

The facilities are also used for reverse engineering. Aircraft have long service lives; it is not uncommon for a helicopter to be older than its pilot. This means parts, including the stretch-formed or rubber-moulded aluminium skin panels, must be produced long after the aircraft has gone out of production.

"For those older blocks, we do a lot of reverse engineering with the Romer CimCore arm, PowerINSPECT and point clouds,” Mr. Kent said. "It may not be as precise as a complete redesign in CAD but, again, it’s close enough and we don’t have to change everything else in the forming system. That would be way too costly just to accommodate a tool that will only make a few pieces a year.”