3D dimensional analysis inspections for aerospace firm

Research laboratory technologist Brock Husak on-site at aerospace company Fleet Canada with WAMIC’s FARO Vantage Laser Tracker performing tolerance inspections on an aircraft jig.


There is no compromising quality within the aerospace industry. Naturally, every part and assembly demands reliable precision, with no room for error.

Local aerospace stalwart Fleet Canada Inc. has major clients on its roster, including Boeing, Viking Air and Bombardier. Like most manufacturers, the Fort Erie company utilizes jigs and fixtures to maximize production efficiency and increase reliable accuracy and quality. (A jig is a tool that supports and guides the workpiece being machined and a fixture holds the part during the assembly process.)

These customers require recurrent certification that the assembly jigs for their components are still compliant to a specified tolerance.

“Periodic surveillance inspection reports are required by our customers on a yearly basis for all assembly jigs,” says Fleet’s Lewy Ruegg, senior program manager and former tooling/quality inspector there.

“Each jig has tooling holes in various positions around the jig that have X,Y,Z coordinates assigned to them that matches the aircraft,” says Ruegg.

The tolerances of assembly jigs are usually plus or minus five to 10 thousands of an inch (0.0005″ to 0.010″).  As reference, the average thickness of a strand of hair is four thousands of an inch (0.004″)

Owning the state-of-the-market portable coordinate measuring machines (CMM) with specialized laser capabilities and software to perform the required inspections in-house is not always ideal for many companies. For Fleet, they have relied on the advanced inspection services from Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division and its mobile laser tracker since 2015.

Once on-site, experts from the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) use their FARO Vantage Laser Tracker to perform inspection measurements of the aircraft assembly jigs. The laser technology works in conjunction with PolyWorks|InspectorTM, a universal 3D dimensional analysis and quality control software.

Researchers take precise 3D measurements of a multitude of critical features (or points) on a given assembly jig with reference to the local coordinate system of the jig and apply specification tolerances to the collected values, explains Dave McKechnie, WAMIC research laboratory technologist.

“We can produce a table-style report clearly displaying a PASS/FAIL condition as well as numeric X, Y, Z coordinate data for each point on the inspection point list,” McKechnie says, adding that the inspection point list is supplied to Fleet by the aircraft manufacturer.

“Using the laser tracker, which we do not possess at this time, Niagara College captures all of these points and then they are compared to the supplied “nominal” values. If points are out of tolerance, then they are reworked as required,” explains Ruegg. “Customers are able to monitor their assembly jigs and if they want any modifications made, they know what the tooling is providing.”

Ruegg says that during the last few years inspections were completed on seven aircraft assembly jigs, but prior to that there were about 20 jigs that needed inspection reports each year.

“Niagara College has done a great job with being able to meet our schedules and have always been very professional,” says Ruegg. “We have had great service from all involved over the years.”

The FARO laser tracker has a variety of applications and the WAMIC team has used it with multiple industry partners for jig/machine/part inspection, machine or construction levelling, adds McKechnie.

The field scanning with laser tracker inspection is just one of many of the technical services with state-of-the-market equipment at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC). To see more capabilities and equipment, see the website.