Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Important Places in Aerospace & Aviation Innovation & Development

A lot of us fly at least once a year for vacation and many of us even more frequently for business.

But have you ever thought about the plane you’re in...

Where was it made?

Who designed it?

Why won’t my bag fit under the seat in front of me?

We’ve dedicated every article this month to the aviation and aerospace industries and the tremendous economic impact on our country and the world.  Including a current look at the entire aerospace market sector. In this article we take you to the places where it all began.

Ever hear of Jet City?

While there are cities like Orlando, San Diego, and Oahu that rely on the aviation industry for tourism dollars, others are historical hubs of aerospace and aviation with thousands of manufacturing and engineering jobs tied to aviation and airplanes too.

When people in this country, or even  around the world,  hear the words - "Motor City"- what do they think of? Cars  And what city comes to mind...

Detroit, of course.

How about Cheesecake?

In the U.S., that usually brings to mind New York City.

How about barbecue? 

Memphis, St. Louis, Kansas City, or maybe the whole state of Texas?

What about technology and computers? 
San Francisco Golden Gate

Of course most think -- Silicon Valley, i.e. San Francisco.

So, what do you think of when you think of Seattle?


Bill Gates and company have certainly had a massive global impact on our lives and culture. 

Maybe you’re not a tech geek, you’re a sports fan and the Seahawks’ recent Super Bowl win came to mind or you thought of the storied history of the Mariners. 

Music lover? You’re thinking Hendrix or Heart - Maybe, grunge rock - Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

Or maybe coffee is your thing and you’ve got Starbucks on your mind.

Did the words, "Jet City" ever cross your mind? 

As it turns out, this was Seattle’s nickname long before any of the rest. As the home of Boeing, Seattle has a long history of manufacturing and innovation in aviation and aerospace.

Boeing is a fascinating and dynamic company and has had a tremendous impact on the aviation industry and the growth of Seattle. You can delve deeper into the Boeing’s pioneering years in aerospace before 1930 or read the whole story of their aerospace innovation on the Boeing website.

When you think of early aerospace and aviation pioneers Kansas surely comes to mind? 

Not the 70s rock band

                Kansas...The State.

Still, No? Well it should. 

Wichita, Kansas was once the Air Capital of the World.  During the early part of the 20th Century Wichita was home to dozens of aircraft companies including Cessna, Beechcraft, and Mooney. All of whom are synonymous with aviation and are still turning out airplanes today. An estimated 250,000 aircraft have been manufactured in Wichita since Clyde Cessna began making planes there in 1916.

You can see more of Kansas’ rich history online at Wings Over Kansas, a fantastic site that documents the legacy and impact Kansas has had on our nation and the aviation and aerospace industry as a whole. 

What about the birthplace of all aviation and aerospace?

Where did it all start? 

On the Outer Banks a top the sandy hills of Kitty Hawk? Nope. 

Aviation’s pioneering brothers developed the technology that would change the world right in the heart of U.S. manufacturing in a Midwest bike shop in Dayton, Ohio. 

You can still visit the original shop and learn about the brothers at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park.

As you plan your next Midwestern family vacation, don’t forget to take a day or two and visit the National Museum of the US Air Force , also located in Dayton, where you’ll get a detailed view of the history of military aviation and an up close look at our earliest airborne defense force. 

“Make sure your seat backs & tray tables are in their full upright, locked position…”

So, the next time you’re squeezed into that middle seat hoping your neighbor doesn’t dump their coffee on you...take a minute to find out what kind of aircraft you are on.

Who built it? Where was it made?

Think about the people and the places that helped put you in that seat. 

There was a lot of time, ingenuity, and hard work we take for granted that brought this technology from the pages of science fiction into being commonplace. And, if you have a chance, take the time to visit cities we talked about and learn a little more about their place in our national aviation history and how they helped shape the aerospace industry and our modern world.

Aerospace & Defense Market - What's the Future Hold?

One of our goals with the Metrology Matters newsletter is to share our insights and knowledge about what we see going on in our shared economy and specifically the sectors we do business with the most. Interestingly, due to the size of these industries -- the markets we are most active in like aerospace, automotive, and medical device are so large they affect almost everybody. 

This month we’re going to shed some light on the U.S. aerospace and defense industries specifically. Aerospace is the largest net exporter in the manufacturing industry, with a $70 billion surplus in 2012 according to a U.S. Department of Commerce,SelectUSA report.

What companies make up the aerospace & defense market sector?

In the table on the right, I have included companies in the aerospace/and defense market sector sorted by market capitalization. Most of the information that will be presented will be in relation to one or more of these companies.

How well is the aerospace and defense market doing in 2015?

The above chart from Google Finance shows the performance of the aerospace and defense market sector over the last year. The data Google pulled from NYSE shows us the sector has fallen overall since the end of May after following the S&P 500 for nearly a year.

What does the future hold for the Aerospace sector?

The FAA produced an aerospace forecast for 2014-2034.
It’s quite a long and extensive report and at first glance the forecast already seems a bit skewed even by 2015. The report goes over the many risks and assumptions that must be taken into account with a long term forecast like this -- which are numerous and unpredictable -- including things like terrorist attacks, fuel prices, the overall world economy and wildcards of new innovative fuels and even the viability of commercial space travel. 

Chart from the FAA Forecast
But, if it is an important sector for you or your company there is a lot of valuable data in it, all the way through to the appendices, which include alternative models for the forecast. Overall, it’s a very good place to start.

3 Major Developments affecting U.S. Aerospace and Defense

#1) Long Range Strike Bomber / Next Generation Bomber / 2018 Bomber

We won’t try to cover everything here, but we’re going to at least touch on the highlights since the contract is expected to be awarded this year to either Northrop Grumman or a Boeing and Lockheed Martin team.

Here are excerpts from two Wikipedia articles on the project. You can find the original links and links to two other articles on the project below.

The following was excerpted from Wikipedia Articles (edited for length and clarity): 


The design goals in January 2011 were:[27]

● Total program cost estimated at $40 to $50 billion.[27]

● Fleet size of 175 aircraft: 120 for ten combat squadrons, plus 55 for training and reserves.[27]

● Subsonic maximum speed.

● Range: 5,000+ nautical miles (9,260+ km).[27]

● "Optionally manned" (for non-nuclear missions).[27]

● Total mission durations of 50 to 100 hours (when unmanned).[27]

● Ability to "survive daylight raids in heavily defended enemy territory".[28]

● Ability to carry thermonuclear weapons.[27]

● Designed to use commercial off-the-shelf propulsion, C4ISTAR, and radar technologies.[29]

Intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and aerial reconnaissance along with command and control gear to enable the crew to direct other aircraft and forces.[30]

Competitive phase

The U.S. Air Force released its request for proposals to industry for the (Long-Range Strategic Bomber) LRS-B on 9 July 2014. Because the RFP is in the competitive phase of acquisition, few details will be made public until the contract is awarded in the second quarter of 2015. What is known is that the platform must be based upon mature technology and adaptable for large payloads.

The LRS-B is expected to replace the B-52 fleet, possibly replace a portion of the B-1 fleet, and be complemented by the B-2 fleet. Northrop Grumman could base their efforts in Florida if they won the contract, which would provide tax credits, while California passed a bill offering tax credits to the manufacturer if they build it in their state, which would mainly benefit the Lockheed-Boeing team.[55][56] On August 14th last year, the California legislature passed a measure to apply tax benefits equally to prime contractors and subcontractors. The previous measure only applied to “subcontractors”, meaning Lockheed, as part of the Lockheed-Boeing team, would be allowed to use their facility in Palmdale, California. This had left Northrop Grumman at a near half-billion-dollar disadvantage in the bidding. The new measure levels the tax benefit field by also applying them to prime contractors, as Northrop Grumman has no subcontractor and also has operations in Palmdale.[57]

As of January 2015, the only unclassified information on the proposed LRS-B is that production is targeted at 80–100 aircraft, it will replace the B-52 and B-1 bomber fleets, it will be stealthy, mature technologies will be used rather than launching new developments (although it will have an open architecture for future features), and initial operational capability is planned for the mid-2020s with certification to carry nuclear weapons approved two years later; optional manning is still being discussed. With a target price of $550 million per aircraft, Defense News quoted a source with knowledge of the program predicting that the LRS-B may be smaller than the B-2, perhaps half the size, powered by two engines in the Pratt & Whitney F135 power class.[58]

One of the main effects of the program will be its impact on the industrial base, as three of the country's five largest defense firms are competing. After the LRS-B, the Air Force will not have another large attack aircraft program until the 2030s for a new fighter, with a follow-on bomber after that. With that stretch of time in between, the loser may be put out of the military attack airframe industry entirely; Northrop Grumman would likely not retain the infrastructure required for the next program 15 years later, and Boeing's main aircraft field is now based on its commercial products. Industrial impact may cause any contract to be contested by Congress from representatives that receive campaign donations from a company whose award would create jobs for constituents. In addition to competing with other Air Force priorities, budgets may put the LRS-B at odds with other services' priorities like the Ohio Replacement Submarine.[58]

In April 2015, Pentagon undersecretary for acquisition Frank Kendall revealed that individual technologies for the LRS-B will be competed as well to enhance flexibility and drive down costs. This means even though one team will build the aircraft, other competitors will have the chance to compete for sustainment and upgrade features.[59] Although a contract was to be awarded in early summer 2015, it was pushed back to September 2015 to sure up requirements. Prolonging this part of the process is seen as a time and money-saver later in the acquisition to ensure the resulting bomber can be useful over a 50-year lifespan.[60]

Additional Recent Information Sources:

From April website:
Tough Choices For DoD On Long Range Strike Bomber
From June 26th on
Defense Contractors compete for huge bomber contract

#2)  What’s the future hold for Rolls Royce?

Having moved into the top 10 worldwide for the first time according to the 2014 Price Water House Cooper report - Top 100 Aerospace Companies, they’re doing pretty well. As the #2 civil aero engine supplier they’re also in good shape from the investment side according to a Greenwood Investors report from July 31st.

Excerpt  from Greenwood Investors Report:

In A Nutshell:

"As a new CEO with a great track record just assumed the cockpit and predictably lowered near-term expectations, Rolls Royce represents a very compelling investment, particularly for a new CEO that can craft a new flight path for restoring the company’s competitiveness back to a level compatible with its perceived brand awareness. The aerospace division of Rolls, which represents roughly two thirds of its revenue, is significantly under-earning its main competitor, GE Aviation, by over half. Rolls Royce’s strategy of using outsourced third parties for 75% of the value of the jet engine has put the company at a significant disadvantage versus its American competitor. Yet, we view this entire margin gap as a very fixable situation.”

Typical of high-level finance and investment reporting there is an opposing point of view that says almost the opposite about the new CEO and Rolls’ stability into the 2020s in a July 11th article from  The Economist,  Hitting Turbulence.

In both cases though, the reports tout Rolls’ strengths in civil jet engine manufacture and the current forecast for increases in airline travel and lower oil prices being good news for the aerospace sector suppliers and manufacturers.

Additional Resource:

SlideShare from 2014 Aerospace Top 100 Special Report-PwC

#3) General Electric forecast strong demand for engines

At #7 in the PwC report of the Top 100 Aerospace companies, Ohio’s GE Aviation,  just finished attending the International Paris Airshow in July and is reported to have racked up another $10 billion in jet engine orders. Not bad for a week’s work.

From a recent article in the Dayton Daily News:

"GE Aviation expects to grow its backlog of jet engine orders to more than $150 billion at this week’s International Paris Air Show, President and Chief Executive Officer David Joyce told international media Monday at a company briefing during the event. Before the show started, the order book for jet engines and services from GE and its joint ventures stood at $140 billion, with more than 15,000 engine orders to fill. It’s a record high for the Ohio manufacturer."

Source : Dayton Daily News - Strong demand for new and existing engines boost GE Aviation sales

What impact does aerospace and defense have on your business?

As we mentioned at the outset, the sheer size of aerospace and defense means their impact on 1000s of companies and 100s of thousands of jobs is absolutely vital to the entire manufacturing industry.

With Boeing firmly at the top for almost two decades looking at what is happening in the rest of the sector shows that despite Western nation’s cuts on defense, according to the Price Water House Cooper report the future has never been so bright.

What does all this have to do with Wenzel America?

Interestingly, we have two technologies, the CORE and our LH with REVO that could not be more fitted to quality inspection of the turbine blades used by all these companies and their suppliers.

Briefly, the CORE coupled with OpenDMIS gives a unique ability to measure blades always “in plane” and the throughput for measurements is faster than the fastest tactile scanning. As for the REVO blade, manufacturers get the fastest tactile scanning available with an infinite positioning articulating head speeding inspection and reducing CMM tooling costs. REVO can even be fitted on the largest CMMs, including Wenzel LH Gantry CMMs.

We just published an in-depth article on CORE vs. LH with REVO on the blog.  CORE and REVO were also big players in our recent Metrology Matters Live Open House, and are featured in our 7-Systems Analysis Whitepaper.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Best Aerospace Measurement Partner - 5 Keys to Choosing Yours

As in any relationship there are certain requirements needed to ensure a successful, long-term partnership vs. a “until something better comes along” situation.

In the case of selecting the best metrology machinery supplier and measurement partner for a particular industry, what are the most vital requirements?

  1. The right range of equipment for many typical applications
  2. An understanding of the solutions needed
  3. Experience with the applications, programming, training and support
  4. Flexibility to produce non-catalog, specialized machines & systems
  5. Experience in implementing the latest sensors and software

Actually, we think it’s all of five of the above. You could say they are your keys for choosing your ideal aerospace measurement partner.

Isn't Wenzel America mainly focused on automotive?

Not exactly.  Although we historically began as a supplier to the German Automotive industry, producing Horizontal Arm CMMs for car body measurement, Bridge CMMs for powertrain applications, and milling and measuring solutions for automotive design studios, Wenzel soon developed  areas of expertise in aerospace measurement and medical, gear and other industries.

From the beginning, our focus has been to implement the latest sensors available from the industry pioneers at Renishaw.  We’ve also consistently developed our own specialized sensors adaptable to industries beyond automotive, including aerospace.

What exactly are the measurement needs in the aerospace sector?

  • Airframe parts, large and small, geometric and airfoil shapes
  • Aero engine cylindrical components
  • Aero engine turbine blades, nozzle guide vanes, blisks and other airfoil shapes
  • Aero engine shafts with splines and couplings
  • Complex multi material assemblies and connectors
  • Very large assemblies

Does your intended measuring partner meet these aerospace measurement challenges?

By focusing on precision and proven metrology in our hardware development and our metrology software, while also maintaining flexibility to solve customer problems with other 3rd party software when needed or requested, we have quickly increased our expertise and machine adoption in Aerospace. When looking for a measurement partner, how well they would meet up with each of the above needs would be vital. 

Can they measure large and small airframe parts, geometric, and airfoil shapes?

Recent survey data suggest the Wenzel LHF Travelling Bridge and the 2015 Gantry machines are the most recognized machines in the aerospace sector.

In addition to these strengths, we think another point in choosing the best partner for any endeavor should also take into account their willingness to be flexible to your needs and go the extra mile. In that regard, our willingness and ability to manufacture non-standard measuring machines (e.g., long thin machines for the airframe sector) has made Wenzel CMMs indispensable for many North American airframe and aero engine manufacturers.

How well can they measure aero engine cylindrical components or blisks?

For cylindrical engine components and blisks, the same LHF Travelling Bridge and 2015 LH Gantry machines used for airframes can be configured with Renishaw’s REVO probe head to provide a CMM with the maximum speed, access, penetration, and flexibility. These Wenzel measuring machine configurations can also be found in use by many North American aero engine manufacturers for this application.

Do they have solutions for the challenges of single turbine blades and vanes?

In the case of single turbine blades and vanes, we have two very unique and capable machines for precision aerospace measurement. The specific applications and scenarios where we would recommend these high-speed solutions can be found in the CORE vs. REVO article on our blog.

In the article, we give an in-depth comparison of the optical scanning CORE and an LHG CMM with 5-Axis REVO but we’ll give one spoiler here -- If you need a compact, shop-floor system for single blade measurement from 2 to 80 inches, no CMM can compete with Wenzel CORE machines. In fact, most North American and European Tier 1 blade suppliers and aero engine manufacturers have a CORE on their shop floor right now.

Is there a solution for shafts with splines and complex couplings?

Shafts with tight tolerance dimensions and run-outs, splines and complex couplings can be inspected on the range of Wenzel Gear Testing machines.

What about measuring aerospace connectors and complex multi-material assemblies?

Measurement of electronic ‘boxes’ and aerospace connectors are critical and difficult to measure with typical metrology machines. Of course, Wenzel’s exaCT Computed Tomography machines are not typical metrology. 

Our  exaCT range of Computed Tomography (CT) scanning machines are not only unique, they are the ideal solution for measuring internal or external components in multi-material assemblies. 

Despite huge potential of CT scanning in metrology settings its use is in its infancy, but the innovation CT brings to the table is rather significant. We’ve written a number of articles about Computed Tomography and the exaCT machines that really just scratch the surface of potential measuring applications and industries that could benefit. 

To get an idea of how it could impact aerospace’s multi-material assembly measurement, a good place to start with this article on CT Scanners by Andy Woodward from our June issue of Metrology Matters.

Does your potential measuring partner work well with others?

There’s a book that talks about how you learned everything important in kindergarten, remember -- “works and plays well with others”? If your goal is to solve any and all measuring problems, then having this one down is a pretty big deal.

As mentioned earlier, in addition to years of applications experience and expertise with our own metrology software, we have the knowledge and flexibility to work with and use other vendors’ products as well.

Our own software, OpenDMIS, supports up to 6 axes including CORE and REVO.   It has an excellent blade analysis package,  AS9102 first article reporting format, and the language needed for power-programmers and parametric programming.  So, it is quite versatile and robust on its own.

But, sometimes customers need or ask for different solutions, in which case we’ve supplied machines with Metrologic, created a shop-floor gauging solution that runs Renishaw’s MODUS, and several other software options where needed and requested.

Is Wenzel America your ideal aerospace measuring partner?

We'll let you decide.  Using this article as your guide for choosing your aerospace measuring partner should make your decision a relatively simple task. 

Other than very large assemblies, there is no measurement or inspection task in the aerospace sector we have not handled.

 Wenzel’s intrinsically accurate granite CMMs integrated with  cutting edge sensors and the most advanced software are only enhanced by our flexibility as a family-owned supplier dedicated to tailor making any aerospace measuring solution you may need.

Combine all that with truly unique and disruptive applications from CT to CORE to REVO – you’ll be hard pressed to find a better measuring partner in the world of aerospace and turbo machinery.

CORE CMM vs. LHG with REVO -- And the Winner Is...?

In this article we’re going to contrast and compare the best applications of two of the seven systems we used in our 7-Systems Analysis at the Metrology Matter Live Event at Wenzel America Headquarters in June. What?! You missed it. That’s ok, read on.

Wenzel’s LH CMM with Renishaw’s REVO 5-axis high-speed contact scanning head


Wenzel’s CORE high-speed optical scanning CMM

Both are highly effective inspection machines for aerospace and turbine manufacturers. Each machine is excellent for measuring turbine blades and similar parts, but they have different strengths and limitations depending on exactly ‘why’ you need them.

So, which Wenzel turbine inspection system should you choose?

The LH CMM with REVO had the highest overall score on our 7-Systems Analysis Metrology Scorecard and truly stands alone in terms of speed and versatility compared to any other inspection system anywhere. You could probably configure it to measure almost anything, but it is especially suited to turbomachine blades, aerospace turbine blades and large-bore parts. Despite this versatility, to call it a jack of all trades would certainly be an insult to the system.

The CORE, on the other hand, is a totally unique optical scanning CMM. There is no other measuring system that combines the speed and precision of the CORE’s discreet white-light measurement with the stability of a traditional CMM. For that reason, in some cases, the CORE’s more dedicated system is better. 

What are the Pros & Cons of the CORE and REVO turbine inspection systems?

First, let’s take a look at what our product expert from the Metrology Matters Live event, Steve Cormier, has to say in this short, but in-depth demonstration of Wenzel's LH 108 with REVO in action.

What are the potential advantages and disadvantages of the LH REVO System?

6 Advantages of Wenzel's LH REVO System

1.  Long reach styli for long chord lengths of multi-vane segments and blisks 

2.  High-speed scanning

3.  Surface finish measurement 

4. 5-axis and infinitely positioning head to get into hard to access parts

5. Superb at measurement of all geometries including deep holes on prismatic parts

6. Sweep scanning to collect low density point clouds 

4 possible disadvantages of Wenzel's LH REVO system

  1. Relatively large footprint 
  2. Uses a physical ball stylus so tip compensation around sharp corners (e.g. trailing edges) can be ‘erratic’ 
  3. Hard to keep section scans on plane, particularly on blades with a high degree of twist and bow 
  4. Limited Z height for tall blades such as fan blades

Now, let’s take a look at what our product expert from the Metrology Matters Live event, Giles Gaskell,  has to say in this short, but in-depth demonstration of the Wenzel's CORE Optical CMM system in action.

What are the potential advantages & disadvantages of Wenzel's CORE System?

Shop Floor Turbine Measurement - Wenzel CORE CMM

5 Advantages of Wenzel's CORE Optical CMM  

1.  Ultra high speed inspection – typically twice as fast the REVO for single blades 

2.  Very small footprint - typically ¼ of a typical LH REVO system 

3.  Uses a light spot rather than a ball-stylus so tip radius compensation and ‘out of plane’ section scans are never a problem 

4.  Operates on all surface finishes from dull to polished (unlike most optical systems) 

5.  Accommodates blades from 1” tall to 80” tall

Optical CMM - Wenzel's CORE M System

3 possible disadvantages of CORE Optical CMM

  1. Sensor requires ‘line of sight’ like all optical systems so cannot “see” deep into holes or grooves 
  2. No surface finish measurement 
  3. Not a scanner, so not for collecting point clouds (But CORE has a bonus advantage of being the absolute fastest blade inspection CMM, period.)

CORE Optical CMM vs. LH 108 with REVO - And the Winner is….?


Depending on what you need most:

  • The best multi-purpose CMM you can buy – LH Generation with REVO 
  • The fastest blade CMM with the most reliable results, on the shop floor – CORE 

For different applications both are excellent solutions for aerospace turbine blade and automotive turbomachine inspection and measurement and have similar price points, so the deciding factor is simply ‘why’ you need it, which happens to be the first point covered in our New CMM Buyer’s Guide.

If you'd like more detailed information on the CORE and LH/REVO systems you can also download the full Technical Overview: A 7-Systems Analysis Whitepaper that contains all the results of our Metrology Matters Live event along with an at-a-glance Technical Scorecard.