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Research Area


The primary activity of ASRC is to conduct research and development projects on aviation services. There are three major sources of research topic: The generic research projects funded through members’ fee; the projects funded by Innovation and Technology Commission or other government bodies; and the projects commissioned specifically by companies.

Some ASRC projects are:

Manufacturing Workpackage support and Training on CNC Manufacturing and Catia V5

This workpackage support was dedicated for HEACO Xiamen to meet all drawing geometric tolerances and surface finish tolerances while using CNC machines in the optimum way.

The ASRC applied its expertise in this specific field to:

  • complete manufacture of vacuum fixture for stage two machining. The surface finish was highly improved, thus having a positive effect on the clamping and vacuum functions of the part.

  • complete evaluation, investigation, 3D CAD Modelling, proposals, and planning for the manufacture of three component types and their representative family of parts, with outline machining operational planning, fixturing and tooling requirements identified, as well as multiple options for component holding / clamping, enabling an optimised manufacturing solution for these, their pre-identified family of parts, as well as to support the manufacture of many other similar part types.

  • introduce 4 & 5-Axis Machines and component types, enhancing existing manufacturing capabilities on a case by case basis.

Besides this, the ASRC has provided a 5-day training to HAECO Xiamen personal on CNC Manufacturing and on Catia V5. The training encompassed automatic workpiece inspection as well as 3-axis and 5-axis machining process strategy for defining the toolpath.

 

 

Digitising and Manufacture of Jigs and fixtures

The scope of this project was to digitise and measure several aircraft components, jigs and fixtures, to enable the design and manufacture of component mould tools, setting jigs and metrology fixtures. The digitisation was realised through 3D scanning (reverse engineering) and the data obtained was used as the source data for Jig and Fixture Design.

The ASRC supplied metrology reports and 3D surface model to enable mould design which supports the composite manufacturing layup processes, as well as for the design and manufacture of setting jigs and metrology fixtures for component repair and verification in line with existing processes and procedures.

 

3D Model of a Trent 700 Pivot Door Modification Jig

A330 Radome digitisation

 

Bolt & Nut Cell

Before using a locknut for an aircraft engine, the breakaway torque has to be tested. The ASRC has developed an automatized system using two collaborative robot arms to check the breakaway torque of locknuts. This system increase the accuracy of the test, avoids human errors and frees up human resources to be allocated to other less repetitive maintenance tasks.

Assisted with vision system, the dual-arm robot picks up all nuts that are placed at any location under the vision system and put them into the test socket. Two types of nut can be picked up by the robot at the same time. The test consists in engaging the nut into the bolt, tightening the nut into this bolt by a Stepper-driven Slide and Stepping Motor and recording the value measured by the torque sensor before disengaging the nut. After the test, the nut is placed in one of the REJECT or ACCEPT buckets and each torque graph is kept for reference.

 

Automation of Coating, Marking, and Recording Processes for Aircraft Components Maintenance

Protective coating of certain aircraft components, such as turbofan engine compressor vanes, needs to be renewed at intervals of the components’ life cycle specified by the Original Equipment Manufacturer. The service processes involved grit-blasting of each component before new coatings are applied. These processes were performed manually by skilled labour in polluted confinement, whilst working with hazardous materials. A system has been developed to automate both processes separately with the use of a single 6-axis robot, treating the order of a dozen components a time, as against piecewise manual handling. Considerable saving in time, material and servicing cost, and the elimination of health hazard issue have been achieved.

Marking and recording of service history of each aircraft component is a must in aviation MRO. Such process also were carried out manually by ‘handwriting’ means with pneumatically operated vibro-pen to scribing service codes on OEM specified areas of each component. A laser marking system has been developed to perform the automation of: i) locating for available space in the target area; ii) alphanumerical character, symbol and/or 2D data matrix sizing; iii) laser mark to within OEM specified depth range.

 

Surface Defect Detection and Correction of Metallic Components

Surface defects such as scratches and pitting on critical jet engine components of complex shapes and different sizes are currently inspected by naked eye and repaired manually. The tasks take up significant man-hours, and human error will limit MRO performance in terms of cost, time, quality and safety. In this project, ASRC developed an automated system that combines robotics, image processing, deep learning, and non-destructive testing (NDT) technologies. A robot is used to conduct inspection on jet engine components. The system will identify and measure surface defects. In some cases, the robot may repair defects found. This automation significantly shortens the process, enhances the quality of work with more consistent workmanship and accuracy, and cuts down the operation costs.

Participating in the 46th International Exhibition of Inventions held in April 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland, the ASRC demonstrated its technology and accomplishments in analysis of Surface Pitting. Founded by the Innovation & Technology Commission (ITC), this project establishes a new method for detecting surface defects on jet engine blades and vanes. The achievements were accepted by the international and awarded the exhibition Gold medal.

 

Residual Stress Analysis

Residual stress is a common artefact in materials which can reduce the overall strength of a material. It can occur during component heat treatment, moulding or welding. Hong Kong Aero-Engine Services Ltd. (HAESL) are major part of Hong Kong’s MRO industry and were in need of a standard method of measuring the residual stress to assess the quality of Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding and heat treatment of large engine components.

The ASRC has developed a method consisting of incremental hole drilling with strain gauge rosettes. Three strain gauges oriented at 0°, 90° and 135° provide input for the calculation of the stress at any depth. Back calculation is applied to produce a profile of the residual stress against depth.

A challenging part of this project was to validate the obtained readings with sufficient and reliable data from well-established methods. The chosen methods included Finite Element Analysis, four-point bending calculations and X-Ray diffraction measurements, and these gave good agreement with the results obtained from the new method. Further measurements on plates welded by HAESL again showed very comparable results to these obtained by an internationally recognized and qualified laboratory.

This project began in mid-2016 and was completed in less than 2 years. Through this project, the ASRC stood-up the first residual stress analysis testing capability in South East Asia. It benefits the local MRO industry directly as it reduces logistics costs and delays that occur by shipping the test parts abroad.

 

Recording System for aircraft components

A Recording System for Aircraft Components standardizes the way images of items are captured before being shipped or put in storage.

In 2014, the ASRC was engaged to undertake a research project by the Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Ltd. (HAECO) which successfully lead to the presentation of a first working prototype in March of 2016 matching with industry’s demand. The image capture system uses an automated imaging and framing application along with metadata capture to provide a replacement for the current manual process. Turn-around-time is below 1 minute.

HAECO placed an initial order for five of the systems to be delivered in 2018. As of 23rd November 2018, four recording systems have been deployed within HAECO facilities.

 

 

Elevated Modular Docking Platform

In June 2018, the ASRC has presented the design of a new modular Wing Docking Platform to the Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Ltd. (HAECO). This platform is fully compliant to all Health and Safety legal obligations and will replace different platforms currently used for the Boeing 777 and the Airbus A330. 40% of the platform area is made of telescopic retractable floorings extending up to 800mm, enabling the maintenance operators to access with ease to the landing gear, engines and wing intrados. Thanks to the built-in motorized elevation system, the platform can elevate from 1.9m to 3.15m.

 

Tooling and Equipment at the Point of Use (TEPU)

This project received funding from the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) with the objective to replace the existing tooling and equipment tracking process used at Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Ltd. (HAECO) by an automated, robust and more cost-effective process. The MRO industry used barcodes that were not unique to an item but rather a type of item, therefore not allowing individual tracking capability.

The ASRC developed a solution that allows tooling and equipment to be issued and returned purely by passing over an inbound or outbound RFID reader. The operator selects the items to be issued and each of the items is checked against a list to ensure the correct items are issued.

The solution was presented several times during development and finally to the users at HAECO. The developed system reached all expressed requirements. Besides tracking, monitoring and controlling all tooling and equipment, the delivered management system ensures that only the correct tools are used on the planned aircraft processes in line with airline procedures, tracking back to the maintenance manuals. In an effort to increase safety, a function monitoring the condition and calibration of tooling and equipment is embedded as well.

The TEPU system relies upon each item having an individual unique tag identifier. These identifiers are linked to an item code that allows for individual tracking. The system stores all data into a single MS SQL Database, which is accessible to one or more elements of the system. Issued and returned items are passed over a reader, which automatically updates the central database. Items not having been returned by the end of a working shift are flagged and exception reports are created.

With now minimum tracking overhead, the newly implemented process allows time saving due to availability of equipment as it is required while improving foreign object damage reduction.

 

Major ASRC research areas are:

  • Adaptive Machining Technology

  • Methods to Detect and Access Bondline Quality and Performance

  • Environmentally Compliant Coating Removal and Installation Methods

  • Heat Damage Assessment Methods for Composites

  • Improved Thermal Control System for Bonded Repairs

  • Reduced Cure Time for Sealants and Adhesives

  • Fastener Hole Repair Methods for Composites Structures

  • Develop and Implement a Remote Expert Capability for NDI/Diagnostics and Repair

  • Prebonding Surface Preparation Methods

  • Common Bonded Repair Materials

  • Interim Use Data Collection System for Structural Anomalies

  • Rapid Corrosion Inspection Methods

  • Low Cost Point of Use Data Entry and Retrieval System for Mechanics

  • Repair of Multifunctional Structural Materials and Coatings

  • Repair Methods for Titanium and High Temp Materials

  • Rapid Repair Analysis Methods

  • System to Determine Remaining Structural Performance Based on Current Anomaly or Damage

  • Multilayer Crack Detection

  • Rapid Single Use Tooling for Composite Repair

  • Improved Repair Quality for Bonded Repair

  • Fastener Removal Methods for Composite Aircraft Structures

  • Improved Paint and Coating Systems (Durability/Removal)

  • Rapid Structural Repair Design, Analysis, and Application Methods

  • Improved Bonded Repair Performance

  • Automation Methods for Composite Repair (Drilling, Scarfing, Ply Cutting, Trimming)

  • Robotic Methods for Airplane Maintenance

  • Just in Time Training Methods for Composite Repair

  • MRO Infrastructure Tools (Planning, Control, Spares, Training, Equipment, Environmental, Data)

  • Rapid Recertification Process for Aged Composites and Sealants

  • Develop Icephobic Coating for Non-Painted Leading Edge Surfaces

  • Develop and Implement Information Interpreter for Inspection Techniques