Avionics, fatigue, vibration, materials and flight, engine, non-destructive…all of these areas require specialist products, software and training. And they are all intertwined into aviation and the manufacturing and maintenance of the aircraft operated in this industry where it is imperative to be ready for anything at any time. We will be exploring the latest technological advances in aerospace testing as well as the tried and true products already here.
The Measuring Division of Kaman Precision Products highlights the availability of its SMT 9700 position/displacement system, which provides high resolution non-contact position/displacement feedback of virtually any electrically conductive target.
Kaman says its flexible SMT 9700 features “easy, cost-effective performance customization that provides an excellent fit for customer applications – and at significant cost savings for volume applications.” The SMT 9700 system can be used for optics positioning in photolithography equipment, XYZ stage positioning in atomic force microscopy, and spindle position in precision grinding of bearing races. The SMT 9700 uses Kaman’s eddy current sensor technology and provides nanometer to sub-nanometer resolution in a small package size. Available with 13 standard sensor options, the SMT 9700 system also enables users to customize sensor type and configuration, cable length, calibration range and offset, as well as performance attributes, linearity, bandwidth, and temperature.
The SMT 9700 is available in 1, 2 and 3 channel configurations. With the 3-channel option, all channels can work off the same frequency and be tuned together. Users can achieve considerable cost savings by reducing mounting costs and saving on machine space and tuning all 3 channels together.
MathWorks, the Natick-based developer of software for scientists and engineers, announced that it has donated $1 million to The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Combating COVID-19 Fund, a $250 million initiative to work on COVID-19 globally. The fund supports leading scientific organizations to develop the most promising diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines to stop the spread of the virus and help speed people who are sick back to health. In addition, the fund is focused on protecting some of the most vulnerable people living in Africa and South Asia from the immediate impact of COVID-19—while helping their countries prepare for future outbreaks.
“MathWorks wanted to find an organization where we could make a meaningful contribution to scientific and engineering efforts to combat COVID-19,” said Jack Little, CEO of MathWorks. “Over the last five years Bill Gates has become a foremost expert on pandemics and we’re proud to support the scientifically-driven root cause solutions his Foundation is pursuing to fight COVID-19 around the world.”
In addition to the Gates Foundation donation, MathWorks recently assisted other global and local organizations in their efforts to combat the pandemic. This included:
• Directing a $1 million gift to CARE for that organization to use as necessary as it works to protect vulnerable people all over the world from the COVID-19 outbreak. CARE is providing hygiene kits, hand-washing stations and clean water to help stop the spread of disease
• Providing $285,000 in grants to 57 non-profit organizations within the MetroWest region of Boston. Each organization received $5,000 to help them address any pressing needs they themselves identify, including family support, food insecurity.
UK instrument manufacturer, Evolution Measurement, is celebrating successfully having their BSI Quality Management System – ISO 9001:2015 accredited during a period when much of the UK was in lockdown.
Work for the accreditation has been ongoing since October last year, but production manager, Mark Adams, finalized the process with the BSI auditors using an all-day remote video call during which they were able to audit and validate the processes in use.
ISO 9001:2015 specifies the requirements for a Quality Management System when an organization needs to demonstrate its ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, and aims to enhance customer satisfaction through the effective application of the system, including processes for improvement of the system and the assurance of conformity to customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.
“This is a momentous day for our businesses, having successfully completed our ISO9001:2015 certification,” Paul Crowhurst, managing director, said. “This is not an easy thing to accomplish, the demands in the 2015 edition are much more stringent and demanding than the earlier 2008 edition. To achieve it first time is also a great feat especially in the current circumstances.”
Vibrant announced a partnership with Airbus to employ its Process Compensated Resonance Testing (PCRT) on additive manufactured Airbus A350 door latch shafts. Airbus Helicopters recently shifted from manufacturing the parts via traditional machining to more advanced 3-D printing additive manufacturing. Vibrant says their solution is currently under investigation to allow the aircraft manufacturer to save considerable time and cost while ensuring same quality final products.
“Vibrant’s PCRT allows Airbus to quickly and economically test every single part at the end of each of the four steps of manufacture, which in turn allows for early detection of anomalies and cost savings,” said Thomas Köhler, managing director of Vibrant. “The current industry practice for testing these parts calls for several nondestructive and destructive testing processes. PCRT is planned to reduce this effort and uncover quality deviations during manufacturing process.
Vibrant’s proprietary PCRT measures the resonance frequencies of whole parts, combining the collection of broadband resonance data in the ultrasonic frequency range with advanced pattern recognition to produce an accurate, fast, and automated nondestructive inspection. The pattern recognition and scoring tools return an automated PASS/FAIL result that requires no operator interpretation, allowing for rapid, confident testing.
Running in parallel with Airbus’ current computed tomography (CT) nondestructive inspections and destructive coupon testing, Vibrant will develop a fingerprint to show the similarity of each part to what is qualified as a normal part. Once developed, these baselines will be used by Airbus to test each part after every step of manufacture.
“Additive manufacturing is a new and exciting technology being embraced by many companies around the world,” Köhler said. “Companies are learning how to make this a productive part of their operations. The PCRT program helps them reduce testing and waste costs while increasing end part reliability.”
The Vibrant PCRT program will run at Airbus for a six- to eight-month trial period to demonstrate its efficiency, accuracy, and cost-savings.
The natural flying environment is incredibly tough on aircraft, thanks to the sub-zero temperatures and high winds (over 200 mph in some cases) experienced at altitude plus hazards such as ice and lightning strikes. This is why aircraft OEMs and component manufacturers invest so heavily in environmental testing in the design and prototype phases, before an aircraft is mass-produced for the world market.
Making the grade isn’t easy. “Much of the time, the items being environmentally tested don’t pass due to some unforeseen abnormality,” says Clayton Forbes, director of operations for National Technical Systems’ (NTS) Boxborough-Pittsfield-Tinton Falls test facilities. (NTS has been providing environmental testing services to the aerospace industry for over 50 years.) “In fact, about half of the systems and components that we test at Pittsfield run into initial failures and have to be sent back for redesign.”
The minimum standards for aerospace environmental testing are set out in “DO-160, Environmental Conditions and Test Procedures for Airborne Equipment.” Published by the RTCA (formerly the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics), a U.S.-based standards development organization comprised of industry experts, DO-160 covers altitude, condensation/moisture/liquid penetration, flammability icing, magnetism, lightning, resistance to fungus, sand/dust, shocks/vibration, temperature, voltage spikes, and a host of other vulnerabilities. Basically, if something can affect an aircraft in flight, DO-160 is designed to test for it beforehand.
“The RTCA was formed in 1935 to develop performance standards for aviation,” says Albert Secen, the RTCA’s vice president of Aviation Technology and Standards. “We have been involved in developing performance standards for every major technological innovation in aviation since then. The FAA works with us as we develop standards and uses them as a means of compliance for awarding Technical Standard Orders (TSOs).”
Translating DO-160’s standards into actionable environmental tests is where companies like NTS come in. Serving manufacturers of automobiles, military, medical, and wireless equipment in addition to aerospace, NTS has 28 testing facilities across North America.
“We test specific aircraft components in our sealed environmental test chambers, rather than entire aircraft,” Forbes says. “Depending on the test, the chamber could expose the components to sub-zero cold, ice, and winds; bombard them with electrical signals and magnetism, or vibrate them severely using our Electrodynamic Shaker.”
Lightning Strikes and More
The move towards fly-by-wire and other electronics-based flight control systems (rather than mechanical or hydraulic means) has increased the importance of lightning testing. NTS conducts such tests at its Lightning Center of Excellence in Pittsfield, Mass., in line with standards set out by DO-160 Section 22, MIL-STD 461/464 and others.
“Our direct tests are done using does using high voltage Marx-type impulse generators (up to 2.4 million volts) and high-current generators (more than 200,000 amps) in a high-bay laboratory measuring 40 by 120 feet, suitable for testing smaller aircraft and larger individual components,” says Jeffrey Viel, NTS’ chief engineer EMI/EMC/E3. “These tests simulate the effect of lightning strikes as an aircraft flies through these kinds of environments. We want to see that the equipment maintains normal operations in these circumstances, and isn’t damaged.”
Even when it doesn’t strike aircraft directly, lightning can disrupt aircraft systems by inducing severe voltage spikes. NTS conducts ‘indirect tests’ to assess such disruptions in both electrical and electronic components. They also measure the impact of ‘near strikes’ (cloud-to-ground discharges near the aircraft that generate magnetic and electrical fields), electrostatic discharges (the sudden flow of electricity between two electrically charged objects caused by contact), and static electricity bursts. According to NTS’ web site (www.nts.com), “Static electricity on airplanes can cause shocks that exceed 100,000 volts.”
65 Years of Environmental Engine Tests
GE (General Electric) Aviation has been in the aviation business since 1917, when the company developed a ‘turbosupercharger’ for U.S. military aircraft. Installed on a piston engine, the turbosupercharger used the engine’s exhaust gases to drive an air compressor that boosted power at higher altitudes. To prove that its product actually worked, GE Aviation tested a turbosupercharged 350-horsepower Liberty aircraft engine on the summit of Colorado’s Pike’s Peak, 14,000 feet above sea level.
In 1941, GE was chosen to build the 1-A jet engine based on British designs. Two I-As were subsequently installed on a Bell XP-59A Airacomet aircraft, and flew for the first time in October 1942 at Muroc Dry Lake, California.
This said, it wasn’t until 1955 that GE Aviation formally opened the Peebles Test Operation facility in Peebles, Ohio. Known as “The Proving Ground,” the Peebles facility initially conducted engine tests using an outdoor platform with performance data being recorded nearby in a former farmhouse.
“GE tested jet engines at Peebles, including the famous J79 fighter jet engine and Liquid Rocket Booster Fuel Cells,” says David Groth, plant leader at Peebles Test Operation. “Over the years, the site grew to encompass 7,000 acres tucked into the thickly forested foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Adams County, Ohio, roughly 80 miles east of Cincinnati where GE Aviation headquarters is located.”
How times have changed! Peebles’ single test platform has been replaced by 11 large jet engine test cells — including two massive indoor test facilities — as well as engine assembly and repair buildings. “More than 300 people work around the clock at Peebles, where they take new commercial and military development engines through a battery of ground tests, engine certification tests, and final acceptance tests on all production engines before they are delivered to customers,” Groth says. “The Peebles operation also conducts final engine assembly for the GE90, GEnx and GE9X commercial engines, as well as the Passport business jet engine. It is generally regarded as the largest outdoor jet engine test site in the world.”
Since jet engines face all kinds of environmental hazards in flight, GE Aviation has crafted a wide range of environmental tests to check them. “These tests include crosswinds/tailwinds, operability, ingestion/impact testing (hail, hailstone, ice slab, bird, water, dust, sand), failure testing (fan blade release, software failure, oil system failures, fuel systems failures), endurance, performance, vibration and durability testing,” says Groth. “Sand ingestion testing for hot and harsh climates is also conducted at our Avio Aero engine test facility in Pomigliano d’Arco, near Naples, Italy.”
“Simulating the environment, and reproducing the effects of what a jet engine endures, can be challenging,” he adds. “We have developed processes that can be measured and repeated, to assure we meet or exceed the worst conditions Mother Nature can throw at engines in flight. Rather than the engine moving towards environmental conditions, Peebles and GE Aviation test organizations bring the condition to the engine to simulate flight.”
Sometimes it makes sense to enlist Mother Nature’s help in simulating cold weather flying conditions, as is the case with GE Aviation’s Aircraft Engine Testing, Research and Development Centre (TRDC) in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The TRDC is based at the city’s James A. Richardson International Airport and managed by a partnership between GE and StandardAero. Its TRDC’s 122,500 square foot outdoor facility conducts icing, bird strikes, sand/dust ingestion tests on GE jet engines.
“Winnipeg is an extremely favorable location for simulating icing tests as the temperature envelope for the execution of the tests is available for up to eight months of the year,” says Brent Ostermann, StandardAero’s enterprise vice president of Engineering. At the same time, “Being an outdoor facility, we are limited by Mother Nature. The testing must be done under the optimum conditions, which include precipitation, humidity, and temperature.”
The Impact of New Technology
The aerospace industry is undergoing a manufacturing revolution, as OEMs replace aluminum with carbon fibre and other composites. At the same time, onboard avionics are getting smaller as they get smarter and run hotter.
This revolution is affecting environmental testing. “As technology and designs have developed into more advanced materials – particularly in the hot section components in new engine — the testing to validate the durability and reliability of these materials has changed,” says Ostermann. “This may include testing the engine for different durations, cycles, or under more extreme conditions.”
“In my areas of expertise, which include vibration/shock, temperature, explosions, and fire, moving to composites and advanced electronics hasn’t changed our tests that much,” NTS’ Forbes adds. “But the increased reliance on electronics for flight control is making lightning and EMI (electromagnetic interference) testing more important and tightening the allowable tolerances for this equipment.”
Then there’s the impact of smaller, more powerful computer-based avionics. “As onboard computer clock speeds go up due to increased processing power, we are seeing more ‘susceptibilities’ during all forms of testing,” says Kyle McMullen, senior research scientist/ director of the National Institute for Aviation Research’s Environmental Test Lab. “When I say susceptibilities, that’s when the equipment doesn’t perform as optimally as we would. If it’s a display, it may produce artifacts. Or the display may show what we call ‘Red Xs’ where it’s saying, ‘I can’t operate right now’.”
As much as new technology is changing the specifics of environmental testing, the core principles remain the same: To put aircraft equipment and systems through everything that Mother Nature can throw at them and then some. The fact that this is being done in the design and prototype phases is good news for aircraft safety, both for pilots and passengers alike.
The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has evaluated the application of an inspection technology developed for jet aircraft engines to help operate industrial and power sector gas turbines more safely and reliably. EPRI’s evaluation focused on applying Vibrant Corporation’s Process Compensated Resonance Testing (PCRT) for hot section blades. They found that the technology’s use can decrease the risk of turbine blade failure and extend the useful life of gas turbine components—enhancing safe operation.
During the testing, EPRI compiled model-specific blade frequency characteristics, including data on more than 11,000 blades to date, a database which continues to grow. The findings of EPRI’s research will be published in an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) journal this summer.
PCRT is a non-destructive, ultrasonic technology for qualitatively evaluating gas turbine blades’ material state, structural integrity, and dimensional variations. It applies various statistical metrics and pattern recognition tools to pick out parts that differ from the rest of those being tested. Gas turbine operators use the technology to evaluate components’ condition, reduce failure risk, and maximize part life—for new, service-run, and repaired blades. EPRI and Vibrant entered into an agreement to apply and evaluate the technology in U.S. utilities’ power plants
“Our application and testing in diverse plants operated by utilities has demonstrated that this technology provides an enhanced understanding of component quality concerns in combination with traditional methods,” said Dr. Robert Steele, program manager, EPRI, who oversees this research.
“Working with EPRI has provided Vibrant access to the statistical baseline data we need to create an inspection tool that can effectively support operators of gas turbines,” Leanne Jauriqui, Vibrant’s vice president of Technology, said. “EPRI’s testing has shown that PCRT offers the power sector the enhanced capability to monitor components over the life of the turbines and understand how they age by identifying parts that are changing in unusual ways.”
The findings will be outlined in the “Process Compensated Resonance Testing for Qualifying the Metallurgical Aspects and Manufacturing Defects of Turbine Blades” paper (# GT 2020-15268).
AIM has teamed with Acromag to offer turnkey solutions for rugged systems that demand high performance computing and avionics databus communication capability. Acromag, a leader in board and embedded system-level solutions for commercial, industrial and military applications offers integration and proven interoperability of avionics databus support for AIM’s MIL-STD-1553 (AXE1553) and ARINC429 (AXE429) XMC cards into their ARCX Product Platform.
The ARCX product platform additionally supports AIM’s MIL-STD-1553 Mini-PCIe card. These small form factor computers feature an Intel Core CPU and single or double PMC/XMC site along with Mini-PCIe sites to accept all AIM form factors from PMC, XMC to Mini-PCIe. In addition, Acromag provides a variation of the industry standard AIM MIL-STD-1553 Mini-PCIe card in their MIL-STD-1553 Acropack form factor for very small form factor rugged embedded applications that allows for easier connectivity.
“We are focused on providing capabilities that our customers ask for,” states Russ Nieves, Director of Embedded Solutions Sales at Acromag. “We are making it as easy as possible for our customersto add avionics I/O capability by integrating AIM cards into our ARCX Product Platform.” AIM MIL-STD-1553 and ARINC429 cards were integrated into the conduction cooled rugged system while integrating AIM’s drivers and the board support package with a Linux operating system and developing a Rear Transition Module (RTM) to provide an I/O path to the rugged 38999 circular connectors.
AIM is a designer and manufacturer of high-performance embedded cards, test & simulation modules, databus analyzers, network analyzers & customized systems for MIL-STD-1553/MIL-STD-1760, ARINC429, AFDX/ARINC664P7, and many other military and commercial data bus communication interfaces. AIM’s field proven,robust and mature product suite is unsurpassed in the avionics market with a pedigree that is recognized throughout the world. AIM boards include multiple processors on the hardware with 128MB or more of global memory to ensure real time performance with fast deterministic access time while offloading the host processor to increase performance and reduce power dissipation in the system further optimizing SWAP.
This integration provides a cost and schedule savings for customers developing avionics-based systems. The ARCX can be offered as a fully-tested, prepackaged platform that provides the functionality and I/O required by avionics applications with AIM hardware inside. “We are committed to the databus communications market for both embedded and test applications for all avionics protocols” states Bill Wargo, President of AIM-USA. “The combination of AIM hardware and Acromag systems gives you a turnkey, fully tested, rugged system level solution.”
OPTRONICS, an authorized General Services Administration Contractor, has received approval to add dozens of new video borescopes to their GSA contract. The OPTRONICS GSA Contract number is GS07F0193T.
Eligible End Users & Government Buyers can now purchase a wide variety of videoscopes, rigid borescopes, fiberscopes, light sources, cameras and other accessories for technical imaging through the OPTRONICS Federal Supply Schedule on the GSA Advantage website located online https://www.gsaadvantage.gov/ “We have worked collaboratively with our government customers to ensure that our comprehensive catalog of quality inspection products are available to solve their most demanding imaging problems, saving them time, money and most importantly improving operational efficiencies” said Mike Drabik, national sales manager for OPTRONICS. “The best part is, all of these industrial imaging products are offered at the lowest negotiated costs to make the most of our customers funding” he added. OPTRONICS has been providing quality imaging solutions for remote visual inspection and technical microscopy applications for more than 35 years leading with innovations in product development and factory trained personalized service to help with evaluations, set-up, training and post sale support.
“We’re really proud of the service our field team provides our customers and we have added online video conferencing tools to help through the current pandemic to assist them further” said Drabik.
Automated software testing provider, Parasoft recently released the 2020.1 version of Parasoft C/C++test, a unified development testing solution for safety and security of embedded C and C++ applications. The new features advance the evolution of software testing and software test automation for safety- and security-critical embedded applications. Parasoft customers will further accelerate their development productivity and time to market.
With this release, Parasoft introduced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in its reporting and analytics dashboard, extending its capabilities to learn from both historical interactions with the code base and prior static analysis findings to predict relevance and prioritize the new findings. As a result, teams can increase productivity by eliminating tedious and time-consuming tasks. Adding even more efficiency to the modern development workflow is the new Visual Studio Code extension for static analysis and the Coverage Advisor, which uses advanced static code analysis to boost unit test creation.
The latest release introduces capabilities to improve all aspects of delivery in software quality including the following integrations:
New integrations with Polarion, codeBeamer, and Jira for enhanced requirements traceability.
Enhanced integrations with Docker containers for safety-critical systems development.
CMake extensions for static analysis and unit testing to simplify the introduction of automated software testing into the build process.
“The growing complexity of software systems forces organizations to modernize their toolchains and workflows. They’re switching to Git feature branch workflows—applying Docker containers and CMake. We see heavy IDEs being replaced with lightweight editors like Visual Studio Code, which are a better fit for projects containing millions of lines of code. Modern workflows, however, need to support requirements traceability to facilitate risk assessment and functional safety certifications.” said Miroslaw Zielinski, product manager for Parasoft. “Our latest release of Parasoft C/C++test with Visual Studio Code extension, Requirements View, streamlined Docker deployments and traceability enhancements fits perfectly into this trend.”
Parasoft continues to provide support for automated enforcement of industry coding guidelines with expanded coverage for updated security standards (2019 CWE Top 25 and On the Cusp), AUTOSAR C++14, and the new MISRA C 2012 Amendment 2.
Evolution Measurement has been appointed exclusive distributor for Italian flight test instrument manufacturer, D. Marchiori Srl. (DMA), in Denmark Norway and Sweden, extending from their current UK territory for DMA.
DMA design and manufacture test equipment for aircraft systems and components such as: RVSM Air Data Test Sets and Systems; Pitot-Static adapters and air data accessory kits, fly-by-wire flight control surface movement analysers; tachometer test sets; absolute pressure calibration standards and transfer standards; tilt tables and equipment designed to customer specifications. They also produce laboratory and production grade instruments as well as a comprehensive range of flight-line instruments.
DMA’s says their aircraft ground test equipment is used in over 80 countries worldwide by established overhaul bases, civil airlines and general aviation. The company says they are the only manufacturer to produce both test sets and a complete range of pitot-static adapters.
“Having worked with DMA for a relatively short time, we are delighted to have been awarded additional territories, particularly where we already have a complimentary customer base,” says Paul Crowhurst Evolution Measurement’s managing director.
“DMA have recognized our passion for their market leading product range and have observed the excellent customer experience which our team provides. This is a really exciting development, we are looking forward to meeting existing customers and opening new conversations.”