API Tracker measures a 55-meter rail mount to within 0.05 mm

Laser-Scanning-a-737-modelMCE Equipment Technology in Steel Manufacturing : Using a Laser Tracker for Aircraft Construction

In addition to the tracker’s exceptional accuracy, users at steel structure supplier MCE appreciated the its portability. MCE technicians took their tracker to customer sites as luggage, not freight. This saves valuable time in shipping and avoids hold ups in customs.

MCE Stahl-und Maschinenbau GmbH & Co KG is a steel structure supplier for industrial and infrastructure facilities. To perform optimally, MCE needed a measuring system that was lightweight and portable. They are currently using the Tracker 3 for a variety of projects that need to achieve accuracy to the third decimal place.

s this really an airplane? It’s hard to believe, because even looking at this 2.5 ton simulation model representing an aircraft fuselage, it’s hard to imagine that this will one day represent an Airbus body.

When you imagine the enormous complexity of producing an aircraft fuselage with the highest possible accuracy and precision, even the most modern production facilities in the automotive industry can’t compare. The quality requirements of Airbus represent the highest standards of measurement and production technology used by MCE Industrietechnik Linz GmbH & Co of Austria.

The final acceptance test is scheduled for tomorrow, so today’s measurement series involves proving the repeatable accuracy of a sliding carriage over 50 test runs. The accuracy needs to be better than 0.15mm. “This data has to be sent to Airbus in Hamburg today” states August Katteneder, a technician in measurement technology at MCE Industrietechnik Linz. “The test engineer from Airbus will not make the trip for the final acceptance test without these.”

The assembly mount has been assembled by HTK Maschinen- und Apparatebau GmbH in Königswiesen/Linz, Austria where the final acceptance test will occur. After this final test of the last six assembly mounts, the parts produced here are sent by flatbed truck on a three day journey to Airbus. Installation of the assemblies will be done on a 55 meter rail system also built by MCE. The extremely accurate height tolerance of the rail system is just 0.05 mm over the full length of the rail. This dimension is also verified and documented using a laser tracker.

The high demands of such exceptional accuracy required an upgrade in the measurement equipment at MCE. “Up until now we have relied on total stations and theodolites.” states Katteneder . “When the Airbus people asked for accuracy to the third decimal place, it was impossible to achieve with conventional measurement equipment. The API Laser Tracker is the only mobile 3D-measuring system that can deliver results with the required accuracy. And because of the reflector-based measuring concept defined by Airbus, we are using the API Tracker3 for all work related to the assembly mounts.”

Because of the way the Tracker has been integrated with the overall design, all of the measuring points reference points and measuring adapters can be reached by a single instrument set-up. The small size and long range of the API Laser Tracker made it relatively simple to design a special location for it to be mounted within the construction. Even block-outs and holes within the simulation weight have been symmetrically arranged, to achieve the most realistic operating conditions. “For this application we manufactured more than 30 high-precision measurement adapters made of nickel silver with a length accuracy of 1/100 mm. These adapters are used in production for holding the stints of the fuselage. The measuring adapters allow the measurements to be referenced in exact coordinate system of the airplane. Measurements are taken with 0.5″ and 1.5″ retro-reflective spheres (respectively).”

The Tracker3 was chosen because of its portability in addition to its exceptional accuracy.

“All other systems on the market are significantly heavier and larger than API’s Laser Tracker” says Katteneder. “Traveling a lot, we need a completely mobile system. Aside from the concerns of traveling by plane, we can not be forced to ship our Laser Tracker as cargo. There is the added cost of weight to consider, but more so there is too much risk that the measuring system could be tied up in customs and not reach the destination. If we are without a measuring system we have nothing but idle time.”

The order from Airbus has resulted in a significant increase in production capacity at MCE, but the aerospace industry is only a small part of their business when compared to all of the other industries with similarly high demands for quality production. MCE is delivering services for industrial plants, buildings and construction facilities all over the world. While mostly traveling by car or plane to building sites domestically and abroad, the Laser Tracker can be easily carried in the trunk of a car.

Currently the Tracker3 is being used by MCE in Egypt on a heat exchanger project. After the initial assembly at the MCE plant in Linz, the heat exchanger is disassembled for final installation and assembly on-site.

You will even find MCE in the Guinness Book of World Records. Recently MCE installed the largest penstock, i.e. dam sluice, in the world of over 13 meters in diameter for a project in Pakistan.

The Tracker3 mobile measurement system also proves invaluable in the construction of free navigable systems for unmanned fork lifts. Starting with the basic layout of the hall, several magnets are mounted in the floor to determine the routing of the fork lifts. The unmanned vehicle then uses the magnetic fields for navigation. The exact positions of the magnets must be measured with an extremely high precision using the Tracker3. It is critical for MCE’s continued success to have the capabilities and the know-how to satisfy the need for these mandatory accuracies and tolerances in every step of the production process. It is through such high quality products and services that MCE has become an invaluable Life-Cycle-Partner for a variety of industries in a worldwide marketplace.