One technical challenge in achieving stealth is that the aircraft surface, often referred to as the outer mold line (OML), must be “smooth.” Attaching the panels that make up the OML, however, requires lots of fasteners – tens of thousands per plane! Each fastener needs to be installed, filled, and painted. This process is conceptually similar to filling screw holes in drywall, except that almost all OML surfaces have some degree of curvature. Under Navy and Air Force funding, Creare has developed a handheld fastener measurement tool (FMT) that can be used to quickly assess the OML at different stages along the assembly line to ensure that the final filled fasteners are sufficiently “smooth.” The FMT uses structured illumination to rapidly acquire a three dimensional scan of the OML surface and fastener. Creare’s FMT provides results faster and with greater reliability and repeatability than existing manual techniques. In the past six months, Creare has worked closely with our sister firm, Edare, as we prepare to manufacture and supply FMT systems to support F-35 Joint Strike Fighter production.
This story was featured in the Fall 2016 edition of Creare’s People & Technology newsletter.