CMM aids aircraft retrofit

September 09, 2020 - 06:00am
Exact Metrology scans old cockpit panel

The aircraft industry requires exacting measurements and tight tolerances. So, when a Chicago area avionics company was retrofitting a Dassault Falcons plane it turned to a leading metrology provider for help.

Chicago Jet Group in Sugar Grove, an avionics provider that specializes in aircraft acquisition and related services, needed a CAD model to recreate an exact replica of a cockpit panel and ensure that it would snugly fit into the Falcon airplane. 

Joe van der Sanden, application engineer with Exact Metrology Inc., was brought in to scan the panel with an 85 series Hexagon Romer Absolute Arm. The 7-axis arm captures data using both tactile probes and laser scanner technology. The RS5 laser scanner is fitted to the arm for high-speed 3D scanning for surfaces and part features on a wide range of finishes and materials. The scanner uses a wide, horizontally oriented laser scan line and fully-automatic exposure settings to make general purpose scanning functionality simple to apply regardless of application. 

In addition, with mid-range width at 115 mm, the laser scanner line of the RS5 makes digitizing large surfaces simple and quick. The RS5 can be easily removed from the arm, allowing easy touch probing in hard-to-reach areas. The unit has repeatable mounting capability, and can be remounted without recalibration. An OLED display screen worn on the wrist shows real-time data captured by the Absolute Arm 7-axis, and allows for measurement feedback and settings adjustment at the point of measurement.

After scanning by  van der Sanden, the dimensions were analyzed with Polyworks Inspector software. The software suite covers the complete product development cycle, from part and tool design, prototyping, and down to final inspection of assembled parts.  

Reverse engineering was performed using Geomagic Design X. This software combines history-based CAD with 3D scan data processing and enables the creation of feature-based, editable solid models compatible with existing CAD software. Geomagic Design X allows users to re-use existing designs without having to manually update old drawings or re-measure and rebuild a model in CAD. This software is easy to learn and use, for it uses familiar history-based tools found in all major CAD products. 

The analysis proved to be a boost for the company, helping to recreate the panel accurately and also quickly. "This will save us months of measuring and drafting," said senior avionics technician at the company.

Exact Metrology Inc. is a comprehensive metrology services provider, offering customers 3D and CT scanning, reverse engineering, quality inspection, product development and 2D drawings.  Contact the  company at 262-533-0800 or visit them online at

Related Glossary Terms

  • computer-aided design ( CAD)

    computer-aided design ( CAD)

    Product-design functions performed with the help of computers and special software.

  • metrology


    Science of measurement; the principles on which precision machining, quality control and inspection are based. See precision machining, measurement.


CTE magazine staff

News items authored by Cutting Tool Engineering have been written or edited by the editors of Cutting Tool Engineering magazine. The reports represent material submitted to CTE by outside authors, and edited by CTE editors for style and accuracy.


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