Boeing’s C-17 is a military transport aircraft operated by the U.S. Air Force and other air forces worldwide. Tools that incorporate motion controllers and servo drives are critical to airframe manufacturing and assembly.
ORMEC Systems Corp. was tapped by Boeing Co. recently to supply hardware and software retrofits and upgrades for two Wing Join tools and one Major Join tool used in the construction of Boeing’s C-17 aircraft. Rochester, NY-based Ormec develops and supplies motion controllers and networked servo drives worldwide.
Boeing’s C-17 is a military transport aircraft operated by the U.S. Air Force as well as the air forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, NATO, and Qatar, and an order for future delivery has been placed by the United Arab Emirates.
This is the second Boeing contract awarded to Ormec in the past three years. Previously, it was selected to supply the control systems on the under-wing maintenance tool for the C-17 Globemaster III. “ORMEC Systems Corp. is grateful to The Boeing Company for the ongoing faith they have placed in the quality of our products and the expertise of our engineering staff to support critical airframe assembly tooling,” said Ormec vice president of Marketing and Sales, Dennis Morrow.
In addition to motion controllers and servo drives, Ormec develops logic control devices and FireWire-based network systems.
The new award from Boeing incorporates Ormec’s SMLC family of motion controllers, SD-Series servo drives and WinCC software. The SMLC family of motion controllers includes single-axis (SMLC-SA) and multi-axis versions. The SMLC-SD series servo drives are designed to interface with the SMLC and Orion ServoWire controllers, and communicate with the SMLC using the ultra high speed IEEE 1394b FireWire digital network. There are 14 SMLC-SD models with on-board I/O and output currents ranging from 2.5 to 60 amps.
Airframe manufacturing and assembly incorporates both Wing Join and Major Join tools. Technicians use the Wing Join tool to position the two major sections of the aircraft wing and hold them in place while they are permanently assembled to form one massive wing, which is ultimately assembled onto the aircraft. This tool is controlled by a number of jacks holding the wing in place; the wing sections must be positioned for a seamless fit, and then locked in place so that the mechanical join can be completed.
The Major Join tool holds the four major pre-assembled aircraft sections together. The center section of the aircraft fuselage is placed atop jacks, positioned and leveled, followed by the aircraft nose, assembled wing, and tail section. High-precision and high-reliability servo systems and software are essential for these airframe components to be joined properly. Ormec said retrofits will improve airframe assembly operations by increasing reliability and will reduce long-term maintenance costs substantially. Also, the upgrade will enhance the user interface, and this, in turn, will make the tools easier to use and more effective.
More than a dozen SMLC controllers and nearly 60 SD-Series servo drives will be used for communication, motion control, and monitoring of each join tool. The systems are controlled through the use of operator interface consoles with touch screens for ease of use and remote pendants for flexibility. Available in 3-, 8- and 16-axis models, the SMLC family offers the benefits of both motion control and PLC functions within a single package. With high-performance computing capability and a true real-time operating system powered by Intel® 32-bit processors, the SMLC is able to provide cost-effective, robust computing power for even the most demanding multi-axis motion and I/O control applications.
“The ability to cost-effectively retrofit the Major Join and Wing Join tools is a core competency of ours, utilizing our latest hardware and our applications and software engineering expertise,” Morrow stated. “We look forward to supporting similar requirements, both for Boeing and other aircraft manufacturers around the world.”