The time required for the alignment and joining of the wings and fuselage sections of Boeing C-17 military transport aircraft has been dramatically reduced. This is due to a complete control system upgrade with ORMEC motion controls for both the Wing Join Tool and Major Join Tool at Boeing’s Long Beach facility.
The aging control systems for aircraft assembly needed upgrades of the control system hardware, Human Machine Interfaces and all software. The systems were retrofitted with ORMEC SMLC multi-axis motion controllers and SD Series servo drives for communication, control and monitoring of the Join Tools. The systems are controlled using highly coordinated, accurate movements for 31 axis of motion for the Major Join Tool and 24 axis of motion for the Wing Join Tools. New coordinated automatic motion sequences were implemented that provide faster alignment with the precision and accuracy needed to meet extremely stringent tolerances.
Airframe applications for the C-17 require precise motion control for Wing Join and Major Join assembly as well as Underwing maintenance systems.
The Major Join and Wing Join processes are part of an aircraft production cycle that does not permit extended downtime for maintenance, repairs or upgrades. The successful installation and start up of the ORMEC systems along with the decommissioning of the old systems met the very aggressive production schedule.
The upgraded systems include SCADA computers for the Human Machine Interface, data collection and trending. RAID servers provide secure data archiving. With systems that took advantage of existing Indramat motors, I/O and cabling, the ORMEC engineering team was able to reduce the control system retrofit cost by over 15%.
“The ability to cost-effectively retrofit the Major Join and Wing Join Tools is a core competency of the ORMEC engineering and start up team,” says Vice President of Marketing and Sales, Dennis Morrow. “Use of the latest motion control hardware and software combined with engineering expertise was the key to the success of both the Major Join and Wing Join upgrades. We are extremely pleased that these systems are producing some of the best aligned aircraft to come off the C-17 production line.
The airframe manufacturing and assembly process uses both Wing Join and Major Join Tools. The Wing Join Tool positions both the left wing and right wing sections and holds them in place while they are permanently assembled to form one massive wing section which is ultimately assembled onto the aircraft. This tool is controlled by a number of jacks that hold the wing sections in place; which then must be positioned for a seamless fit, and then locked in place so that the mechanical join can be completed. The Major Join Tool holds the four major pre-assembled aircraft sections together. The center fuselage section is placed atop of jacks. Using feedback from a laser leveling system, it is positioned and leveled. Similar operations are performed on the forward fuselage (nose), assembled wings and tail section. For these airframe components to be properly joined, the use of high-precision and highly reliable servo systems and software is essential.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense, Motion control • motor controls