RIT helps redesign Navy kit

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Engineers at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) are using laser scanning technology to help the US Navy redesign aircraft components.

Michael Haselkorn, senior staff engineer at RIT’s Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies, is leading a team of professors and scientists along with engineers from Acro Industries, a local Rochester manufacturer, in a major project to redesign and improve components of the Navy’s EA-6B jet. They aim to reduce costs and improve the safety of the EA-6B, one of the Navy’s key aircraft types.

Haselkorn is currently working with Raymond Grosshans, professor of industrial and science technology at RIT, to utilise new laser scanning technology to create a three-dimensional digital schematic of the turtleback, the metal cover over the EA-6B’s fuselage. They use the schematic to build a solid model from which they can perform a structural analysis of the part to identify flaws and improve quality. This analysis was previously time consuming due to lack of accurate schematics, making improved manufacture of parts extremely difficult.

“We apply the newest scanning methods to provide an analysis of the dimensions and schematics of the turtleback, information that was previously not available in this detail,” Grosshans says. “This data is essential in analysing the structure of parts to enhance quality and increase useful life.”

The process is part of the Navy’s effort to improve the design of the turtleback, which has been susceptible to corrosion and maintenance issues in the past, adding additional costs to the EA-6B.

The Navy is now working with Acro and Haselkorn’s team to build flight-ready prototypes of the turtleback. Tests are set to begin in the spring.

Haselkorn and Grosshans worked with two additional companies, Romer Cim Core and NVision, to develop the scanning technology, which includes a portable mechanical arm, laser and camera system. They hope to use the system for other commercial opportunities in manufacturing and structural analysis.

“This technology can be used in numerous industries to transform existing parts and structures into digital models that can then be analysed, redesigned and improved,” Haselkorn says. “With this technology, the sky really is the limit; it’s fast, accurate and portable.”

Haselkorn’s research is part of a broader collaboration involving the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies, RIT faculty, private industry and the United States military to apply technological innovation and scientific advancements to current issues surrounding parts, equipment and systems in a wide variety of military operations.