BURLINGTON, Mass., USA - When a 30-year-old aircraft arrives in the hangar for retrofitting or repair, the more information engineers have the better. That's why Texas-based aviation services company M7 Aerospace is now offering a new service to create precise, three-dimensional portraits of entire planes down to one-thousandth of an inch. To execute the job, M7 purchased a Z Corporation ZScanner® 700 PX, the world's only handheld laser scanner that precision-scans large objects such as aircraft and automobiles - items that previously have been too big to capture by hand.
M7 recently used the ZScanner to precisely capture the entire surface of a Fairchild Metroliner in a resolution of 0.1mm, in just three days. The Fairchild Metroliner is a 19-seat commuter class, turboprop aircraft with a 57-foot wingspan. The same job would have taken weeks, months or years, if attempted at all, with other scanning technology.
"There's a growing need for both our government and commercial customers to keep their older aircraft flying and productive," said Joe Furnish, M7 Aerospace vice president of engineering services. "This new scanning capability from Z Corporation helps us do that. By automatically capturing deep engineering data, we can more quickly and efficiently reverse-engineer aircraft and components that were originally designed in the 2D era - before 3D computer-aided design was readily available."
ZScanners are the world's first handheld, self-positioning 3D scanners. Most scanning technology requires jigs, fixtures, tripods or mechanical arms. The ZScanner's advantage is that it's uniquely handheld and self-referencing; it automatically determines its location in space without the need for external orienting devices. The user simply sweeps the scanner over the target surface and "paints" it with complete freedom of movement around aircraft, automobiles, boats or other large objects. As the user paints with the scanner, the digitized object appears on a laptop screen, eliminating costly and time-consuming post-processing.
ZScanner 700 PX's breakthrough in scale stems from built-in AICON™ photogrammetric software, previously available only in fixed-position 3D scanners that lack the handheld's mobility, speed and convenience. This photogrammetry capability, which provides high accuracy on very large objects, is uniquely combined in the ZScanner 700 PX with laser scanning for fine data capture at high resolution.
M7 Aerospace's engineering team worked closely with AGS 3D, Inc. (www.ags-3d.com), of Austin, Texas, to adapt the ZScanner to the specialized needs of an aviation engineering department. AGS 3D, Inc. is a distributor of Z Corporation 3D printers and 3D scanners.
The value of engineering data
In addition to civilian aircraft, M7 Aerospace maintains and modifies legacy aircraft for the US military and foreign governments. Older but still viable aircraft are sometimes called upon to perform more modern roles and require modification such as ballistic blankets, avionics upgrades, and external sensor installations for missile defense systems.
These modifications can be time-consuming and expensive without precise data, which is often lacking due to the absence of original paper design documents or because of variations in a given craft. Variations in an aircraft can result from manufacturing conditions, modification, and wear and tear.
With the addition of the ZScanner, M7 Aerospace's Engineering team can create CAD-ready 3D models of an entire aircraft, making the integration of these modern defense systems easier and more cost effective. After ZScanning, both M7 Aerospace and the plane owner have the precise engineering data they need to efficiently repair, modify or retrofit any plane they encounter. They also have a detailed design template for any plane based on the same design.
"There's an increasing demand for large-scale scanning capability in aviation, as well as other industries that engage in reverse engineering, inspection, 3D archiving, measurement, damage assessment and similar uses," said Richard Honey, president of AGS 3D. "The ZScanner's speed, accuracy, and ease of use translate into cost savings, new revenue and increased quality."
About M7 Aerospace
M7 Aerospace began operations in 2003 after acquiring the assets of Fairchild Aircraft. M7 remains the OEM for the fleet of Fairchild-built Metro, Merlin, Expediter and C-26 aircraft, but has transformed itself into a leading provider of aerospace and defense services. M7 operates from its 405,000 sq. ft. facility located on 22 acres at the San Antonio International Airport and employs nearly 500 people worldwide. To learn more about M7 Aerospace, please visit the company's Web site at http://www.m7aerospace.com.
About Z Corporation
Z Corporation makes products that enable users to capture, edit, and print 3D data with unprecedented speed, ease, versatility and affordability. These products include the world's fastest high-definition 3D printers — machines that produce physical 3D models from digital data in multiple colors - and uniquely portable 3D scanners - handheld machines that digitize 3D surfaces in real time. Z Corp. technology is enabling a wide range of applications in manufacturing, architecture, civil engineering, reverse engineering, geographic information systems (GIS), medicine and entertainment.
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