10 weeks, MFA
Product and experience design
In collaboration with Atlas Copco (& Airbus)
1 million people are flying each day, even though it’s not a sustainable choice of travelling. The aircraft industry is increasing with approx. 5% every year and only Airbus produces e.g. 60 aircrafts each month. It takes a lot of energy to build an aircraft and they only last for e.g. 25 years. There is no circular economy in this business. How can I affect the aircraft industry in a more sustainable way?
This project was about designing aircraft assembly tools for Atlas Copco that would be used at Airbus. I chose to work with a direction I believed would make the greatest eco-friendly impact on the environment and still would fit in Atlas Copcos portfolio.
My solution was Atlas Copco Impero, a 3D scanner with inbuilt AR projection and ultrasonic for a more efficient quality check. Impero saves all information about each fastener to a smart cloud when scanning, to be able to see changes of the fasteners over time.
The ultrasonic function enables tension check of fasteners, which is something that is missing in the aircraft industry today. By knowing the exact tension of each fastener, the aircraft wouldn’t need as many fasteners as today, which implies less work time, cost etc. Knowing the tension also implies a deeper control of the fasteners, which leads to faster maintenances and longer lives for the aircrafts.
How to design a smart quality check that allows the operators to check the fasteners during and years after the aircraft assembly process?
more than 1 million fasteners
are keeping a normal sized aircraft together and they all need to be fixed and checked
“A fastener is installed in one second and has to perform 40 years”
// Thorsten Roye, Airbus Hamburg
A perfect placed fastener should look like the picture to the right shows. Achieving this perfect result when placing a fastener is very important as the fasteners are clamping a fuselage together. Only a small millimeter misstake can have huge consequences. For example if a fastener not is perfectly flush it will create turbulence around it which leads to higher fuel consumption and a bad influence on the environment. To achieve good quality on a fastener it need to have the right flushness, protrusion, seating, tension and torque, which is controlled during a quality check and the incorrect ones are changed.
The operator checks the torque value with the nutrunner or wrench while tightening the fastener. After that, the quality technican checks the flushness, protrusion and seating of the fasteners using gauges. Not all fasteners at an aircraft are checked as there are a million of fasteners, the quality technican only checks a random amount of fasteners.
A big problem I saw during the research was that the maintenances of the aircrafts are really expensive and time consuming. As well as the aircraft only are used for e.g. 25 years and after that time the airline either sell them cheap to poor countries or dump them. Having a second market for the aircrafts is good, but that can also lead to catastrophes as those planes are in bad conditions with a low safety level. In this case a good quality check is really important.
Inefficient quality check
The location and information about the fasteners can’t be stored
Many errors which takes time & cost money
All fasteners can’t be checked (it takes too long time)
More fasteners (than actually needed) have to be used to ensure safety as only a random amount of them are checked
Too short lives for airplanes
Expensive & time consuming aircraft maintenances
The tension can’t be checked with the tools used today
My primary focus and goal in this project was to find a solution of how the quality check can be done in a more efficient way, (compared to today) during and after the assembly process. I put on the sustainable glasses to be able to see the concept solution through that point of view. My wish was to find a solution of how to measure the tension of the fastener as it would entail a high quality level at the quality check and solve many problems .
”The maintenance cost of aircraft are extremely high, therefore if we are able to know the tension of each fastener, we can calculate the lifespan and maintenance time of the aircraft and it will save a lot of time and money”
// Thibaut Papaix, Atlas Copco Stockholm
The concept consists of three parts - a product, cloud and system. My primary focus area is on the product and the total experience of the concept - where all parts play important roles.
Everything the tool scans is compared with the 3D CAD model of the aircraft through the smart cloud. Because of this it’s possible for the tool to see if a fastener might have been missed and exactly which fastener is bad etc. When the tool is in use it will automatically save information to the smart cloud. Impero saves the position (with geolocation) and information about the fasteners. This enables simple correction as the errors easily can be found again.
All information at the cloud can be controlled and organized in a system. The system gives the user a great overview of the information about all the fasteners, their location and which fasteners that have been checked and not. Above all the system enables comparison of different quality checks and through that see damages and changes over time. For example, the information from the quality check when the aircraft was built can be compared with the information from another quality check made years after - to see if anything has changed.
Impero consists of three protective rubber parts, a main body in compostable plastic, two glass-surfaces and 4 screws. I have tried to design Impero as sustainable as possible by using more sustainable materials (without coatings) and by separating the components. I wanted to use as little materials as possible to make it more sustainable.
All the components inside the product are placed with snap functions instead of glue which makes it possible to recycle or change bad components. But as recycling also takes a lot of energy I was aiming to give the product a timeless design to increase the life of it and a possibility to be re-used. The product could be re-used by the separated components, but it could also be used in another context when not used in the aerospace area anymore.
There is an on/off button, a function button and a trigger at the product. The on/off button starts the tool in the function that is activated by the function button, which easily can be switched.
During the 3D scanning the focus of the user should be at the scanning surface. By pressing the trigger the scanning of the fasteners can be done and because of the AR technique an interface can be projected directly onto the surface. This gives direct feedback about the fasteners to the user. A red circle illustrates an error and a green circle a perfect fastener.
display - 3D scanning
Every time the user releases the trigger the display on the tool shows that the information about the fasteners is saved to the smart cloud.
Display - ultra sonic
When using the Ultrasonic function the feedback to the user is shown at the display. When touching the fastener with the touch point of the product the user gets feedback on the product. The user needs to hold the tool towards the fastener until the measurement is done and the circle is filled to 100%.
The advantages of Impero as a product is that it’s made of sustainable materials and construction. The product also has a longer life as it can be used in different contexts and it gives perfect flushness of the fasteners which means no turbulence around them and extra fuel consumption. The possibility to check the tension of the fasteners and to track and store information about them are also great advantages. Which makes it possible to see changes over time as an old scanning can be compared with a new.
I predict that Impero as a whole concept enables longer lives for the aircrafts. As the tool enables deep control of each fastener in the aircraft the fasteners that gets bad over time can be changed, instead of “dumping” the aircraft. This minimizes the risk of catastrophes and gives a more efficient quality check process and aircraft maintenance.
Field trip video
We started out by researching in groups on different areas, which we presented for the class
Quality check scanner
During the quality check
Checks many bolts at the same time
Compares the scanned info with 3D drawing
Checks seating, protrusion & flushness
Marks out errors
During the tightening or quality check
Checks the fasteners with ultra sound
Checks seating, protrusion, flushness & tension
High quality level
Marks out errors
This concept could be a handheld tool or an add-on to an existing tool like the wrench
Inbuilt strain gauges on bolts make them smart
The smart bolts are checked with a new wrench while tightening
The wrench checks seating, protrusion, flushness, torque & tension
Very high quality level
No additional quality check needed
I chose to continue with a combination of the Quality check scanner and the Ultra checker. The concept is using the Ultra sonic technique for doing the quality check and measuring the tension of the bolts. My aim was to design a product that could both check many bolts at the same time and zoom in on one bolt. In order to check it with more accuracy and to measure the tension.
Presentation for atlas copco
feedback from Atlas Copco
“I really like your idea and the marking function is great”
//Thorsten Roye, Airbus Hamburg
“Excellent work! It’s a very interesting concept”
//Ola Stray, Industrial Design Manager, Atlas Copco
Above all, I learned how to turn a project from something that feels really bad doing (environment perspective) to something valuable in this industry (which I don’t want to support)
Research techniques and a lot of fact about the aircraft industry
Good “acting out” techniques during the ideation process
Improved skills in Rhino
To take decisions and then go for it (and not go back again because of uncertainty)
Milling and build a full scale, final model