Project to transform aircraft maintenance through digitisation to be piloted in real-world scenarios

26 July 2018

A pioneering project to develop an innovative aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) system has opened up opportunities for further research by the AMRC and future collaborations to pilot the technologies in real-world scenarios.

Advanced Aerospace Assembly Ltd (A3L) worked with the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) through a consortium of SMEs on the Aircraft Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Configuration Capture System (AMROCCS) to transform the way aerospace companies maintain fleets of aircraft.

The consortium, through collaboration with a variety of partners working across different industries, developed a system to provide significant time and cost savings alongside more effective control and management of MRO processes - all using the latest technologies in 3D capture, photogrammetry, AR visualisation and wearable technology.

AMROCCS is a paperless maintenance system that gets real-time data to engineers undertaking MRO. It uses automated 3D and scanning data capture using wearable and handheld technologies to deliver diagnostics and customisable digital workflow instructions bespoke to each task. The results are then recorded and the audit trail is updated for access either on, or off, aircraft.

The system integrates visual scanning technologies which can capture physical changes in an aircraft and when this data is applied to a digital model of the aircraft, the workflow instructions for a repair are generated. The system aids the engineer in not only diagnosing and repairing any fault but gives engineers real-time access to online expert consultancy and training.

The three year research project involved a full-scale industrial demonstrator being created on the shop floor of the AMRC’s Factory 2050 and played a key role in speeding up development times and bringing the product to market quicker.

Christopher Freeman, theme lead for Digital Manufacturing at the AMRC’s Factory 2050 facility, said AMROCCS was unique in that beyond the AMRC, the consortium was made up solely of SMEs and the project was an eye-opener for digitisation opportunities within MRO.

He said: “Sector influence was provided through a very knowledgeable steering group which provided the all-important industry steer. The activity opened the AMRC's eyes to the opportunities for digitisation within the MRO space which is currently very paper process driven.

“Having completed the demonstrator project, the consortium is now looking at piloting the application in real world scenarios and continuing to develop the system to incorporate further automation and intelligence."

The consortium – which includes Intoware Ltd, Argenta Europ Ltd, NCTech Imaging Ltd and Serious Games International Ltd alongside strategic partners such as BAE Systems, Marshall ADG, Siemens and Autodesk - is exploring four strands of work to take the system, and its associated technologies, forward to make it a commercial success.

The first of these pieces of work is to scout for potential end-users within aerospace for the digital workflow platform. There is also a massive spill over for the AMROCCS technologies to be used in other applications with a second strand of work involving scoping for potential end users that could benefit from different combinations of those technologies.

The project has also opened up opportunities for future research and development collaborations to investigate additional capabilities and testing the implementation of integrated technologies.

This will see the AMRC and Intoware carry out a feasibility study into automated knowledge capture and the automatic creation of digital workflows from paper-based process documents. The study will also analyse the user experience of workflow using wearable technologies. The AMRC will also work alongside A3L, Argenta, NCTech, Intoware and Replicade on a research and development project for real-time audio visual technician/engineer communications; additional visualisation options for data capture; and AI and AR/VR library process structure.

A fourth strand of work will look at selling proof of concept programmes that can deliver immediate benefits and operational efficiencies to potential end-users.

Argenta Commercial Director, Mike Drummond, said there is a future for the technology and the consortium.

“We are looking at the next steps now,” he said. “The innovative part of the project was not necessarily in the technologies themselves but in how they were being integrated.

“Different technologies that progressed as part of the project progressed at different rates. One is marketable and commercial and able to be implemented in a business straight away. What we are looking to do with that is negotiate and fulfil proof of concept programmes with potential end-users focused on the digital workflow element.

“As part of that proof of concept work we can also identify what other aspects of AMROCCS’ capabilities is useful to them.”

Companies interested in AMROCCS can contact Mike Drummond by emailing mike@argenta-europ.com

 

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