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Aerospace Industry Benefits from Advancements Made in 3D Scanning

Greg Groth, Exact Metrology Division Manager, provides insight into aerospace industry trends and the benefits of recent metrology developments

Exact Metrology: A Division of In-Place Machining Company, a comprehensive 3D metrology service provider and hardware sales company, has recently seen an uptick in requests for scanning large aerospace components.  Greg Groth, Division Manager at Exact Metrology’s Brookfield, Wisconsin location shares his thoughts on this development.

Greg Groth

Greg Groth, Division Manager at Exact Metrology, Brookfield, Wisconsin

It is widely known that the aerospace industry has long been a driver of 3D scanning and the implementation of this technology into quality systems.  When speaking of the surge in interest in scanning from aerospace customers, Groth said, “As the scanning technology’s accuracy has improved and data collection has become much faster, the viability of scanning full vehicles or component level parts has seen a dramatic increase in demand.”

For example, scanning an airplane exterior can now be completed in a matter of days when, in the past, it would take up to a week. Additionally, data processing has also become much quicker with advancements made in software and data handling. Groth added that he has seen the number of full aircraft scans nearly triple in the last year at his company.

For scanning projects of this size, Exact Metrology uses a combination of laser trackers and long-range scanners. The use of these high-precision metrology instruments allows quick scanning of large volumes as well as control of the scan-to-scan for fit and accuracy. Additionally, the alignment challenges that have long been present in the aerospace industry have been greatly reduced with the innovative capabilities of both laser trackers and today’s long-range scanners.

With aluminum continuing to be the most often used material in manufacturing aerospace skins and components, advancements made in metrology instruments now allow for highly accurate scanning both indoors in an environmentally controlled condition and outdoors when conditions are less than ideal. Newer technology can combat both the high reflectivity of chrome finishes and material expansion.

Due to scale, the metrology instruments used by Exact Metrology can vary.  Groth commented that the same level of precision may not be required for a full body scan as the required specifications for panels or component level details. For these tight tolerance areas, Exact Metrology will use higher precision scanners such as PCMMS (Portable Coordinate Measurement Machines) or Structured Light scanners.

RV8 plane point cloud image

RV8 plane point cloud image

Fastening of components and structure sections is also critical. Exact Metrology specialists can leverage several different pieces of equipment with the current bandwidth of metrology hardware. For example, if off-vehicle and internal structural information is needed, CT scanning can be used.  CT scanners have the ability to assess a clogged fuel line or a small manifold, for example, including evaluation of cracks or manufacturing imperfections such as porosity.

Discussing the importance of having highly precise and accurate inspection data for the aerospace industry, Groth said, “The precision we’re achieving on scans allows for more accurate duplication in reverse engineering applications, while the precise representation increases the confidence in part validation on the inspection.  Accurate representations allow for more improved virtual testing such as FEA (Finite Element Analysis) or any flow based testing.”

Exact Metrology: A Division of In-Place Machining Company, is ISO9001, AS9100 Certified as well as ITAR Registered. 

Exact Metrology: A Division of In-Place Machining Company, with facilities in Cincinnati, Ohio, Moline, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, plus affiliated offices throughout the country, is a comprehensive metrology services provider, offering customers 3D and CT scanning, reverse engineering, quality inspection, product development and 2D drawings. The company also provides turnkey metrology solutions, including equipment sales and lease/rental arrangements.


In-Place Machining Company: On-Site Machining Solutions In-Place, Any Place in the World.

In-Place Machining Company, with facilities in Wisconsin, Washington, Virginia, Ohio, California, and Ontario, Canada, is the premier provider of high-precision engineered on-site machining, metrology, and large scale cutting & drilling services for a wide range of renewable energy, aerospace, industrial, and military customers throughout the world.


For more information, please contact: 

Greg Groth
20515 Industry Avenue
Brookfield, WI 53045
Phone: 262-533-0793