Pride in workmanship and personal involvement are the credos of Aircraft Tooling and Design Group. What seem like simple business principles have propelled this small, central Florida-based company to become a valuable part of the supply chain for aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing, Lockheed and Sikorsky. In just over two years this busy production facility has produced hundreds of master tools.
Multi-task Production Facility
But ATDG’s business isn’t just about building master tools. Parts manufacturing, tool inspection, multi-piece part alignment and reverse engineering are all in a day’s work at ATDG. Keeping pace with the needs of their clients means versatility. A technology driven organization, ATDG invests in software and hardware that give them flexibility to provide reliable, cost-effective production for their customers. Their business relies on 5-axis machine tool with a 10 x 7 x 4 foot envelope for the production of large tools used aircraft manufacturing, a 12 foot portable coordinate measurement arm, sophisticated CAD software and BuildIT.
Versatile Software Ensures Maximum Productivity
BuildIT is versatile 3D software used for measurement, tool-building and inspection. It is easy to use for the casual user, yet provides the depth and traceability required for metrology experts. ATDG uses BuildIT to deliver many of the services that they offer.
ATDG’s business spans many projects and can include everything from manufacturing the master tool for a motorcycle windscreen, to machining composite tooling for fighter aircraft. They invested in BuildIT for its versatility in fulfilling many of their day to day operations. An integral component of the digital thread, BuildIT interfaces directly with their portable arm for measurement, alignment, tool-building and inspection, and also complements their in-house CAD system for reverse engineering tasks.
A recent project required them to engineer and build an engine cowling, or cover, that would surround a new gas turbine engine model. The new cowling had to provide ample clearance to accommodate both the engine vibration during flight, and proper engine cooling. The first step was to determine the dimensions required for the cowling. ATDG began the reverse engineering process by gathering point cloud data from the new engine as well as the old cowling. BuildIT directly interfaces with portable measurement devices, allowing ATDG to easily capture the required point cloud data. On-screen data capture enabled ATDG to interactively visualize the data as it was being captured. They were able to validate in real-time that ample data was being collected and that it was of good enough quality. BuildIT’s point cloud processing capabilities enabled ATDG to prepare the digitized data before loading it directly into their CAD system, facilitating the reverse engineering process.
Once the cowling had been designed, ATDG built six tools, out of composite materials, for the assembly. BuildIT was used to inspect that each piece had been built according to engineering design. Live inspection, directly on the original 3D CAD model, enabled ATDG to quickly validate that the parts had been manufactured to specification. All inspection data is embedded in the 3D model, allowing ATDG to go back at any time to analyze the results. During assembly, each piece had to be carefully aligned. Comprehensive point, feature and surface based alignment tools in BuildIT greatly facilitated the process. The final validation of a job well done came when the cowlings performed perfectly in service.
Overall, BuildIT’s versatility and completeness encourages task efficiency and ensures maximum productivity in this busy shop. It is used to perform many tasks in the digital engineering-to-manufacturing thread and enables ATDG to complete jobs quickly and cost-effectively. “BuildIT is much more than point collection and alignment. It is a powerful, simple to use package that has given me functionality in all the different areas of my business,” said Steve Meisman, Owner and President of Aircraft Tooling and Design Group. “And whenever I have questions or need support, I always get red carpet service from the team at BuildIT.”
With a solid client base and plenty of repeat business, ATDG is recognized as a key service operation in the southeast dedicated to the manufacture of large composite mold tools for the aircraft industry.
ATDG’s business is built on performing a variety of metrology services and demands versatile software tools that can be used to accomplish tasks efficiently and reliably.
ATDG relies on BuildIT to complement their portable CMM hardware and in-house CAD system and help them complete everything from measurement and alignment to inspection and set up for reverse engineering.
“BuildIT is an integral part of our company’s business. Without it, we couldn’t offer the services that we do and ATDG wouldn’t be where it is today,” Steve Meisman, President Advanced Tooling and Design Group.