Laser scales demand prompted by Boeing

Renishaw’s aircraft equipment may be fitted as standard

Renishaw, the Gloucester probes and instrumentation company, sees rapid growth in demand for its laser scales following a decision by Boeing to specify its equipment on new large machines.

Boeing’s decision will be worth several million pounds a year to Renishaw, which says the technology will substantially improve aircraft manufacture.

Renishaw will fit a set of laser scales to critical machines bought by Boeing to make aircraft wings. The instrument uses lasers to produce more consistently machined parts by compensating for temperature changes.

Renishaw, which began as supplier of a probe used to test Concorde exhaust pipes, may eventually see its scales fitted as ubiquitously as its probes in small CNC machine tools.

The equipment, which is made only by Renishaw, is reported to improve accuracy by 20 to 30 times. This should help make aircraft lighter and take their assembly one step closer to full automation.

`In the past, the machined wing will have been relatively rough,’ said David Pitt, Renishaw’s transducer systems managing director. `Now the finish is super-smooth. The difference is evident to the naked eye.’

The scales are being considered by other aerospace makers such as BAe and Aerospatiale, claimed Pitt.

Renishaw is expected to ship between 100 and 200 scales a year. The transducer division accounts for a fifth of Renishaw’s £77m turnover.

By Melanie Tringham