Digitally Transforming Sustainment and Modernization
How RACER™ Technology is Prolonging Service Life.
Speed and efficiency are differentiators when it comes to equipment maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade. The quicker you can address an issue on an aircraft or within a component, the sooner you can get it back into service.
To overcome these obstacles, Northrop Grumman developed RACER™, which combines a commercial off-the-shelf scanning capability with propriety technology that can quickly produce a detailed dimensional representation of anything from the smallest of parts to an entire aircraft. Engineers then use this data to create the 3-D models, 2-D drawings and design tables necessary to identify issues and develop solutions. A digital game-changer.
Scan, Analyze, Repair
“RACER™ can scan for structural problems on an aircraft, like a crack or imperfection. Then we analyze that data using algorithms for things like material strength and tensile strength to calculate a repair without having to replace the whole area,” said Joseph Gardenhour, senior manager of business development. “It’s an amazing tool that provides huge savings in terms of prolonging service life.”
The scans can be transformed into reference and training materials for future use, to ensure new parts will fit correctly before a large order is placed. And, as a bonus, RACER™ can even provide the substantiation data the Federal Aviation Administration requires to prove airworthiness after a repair.
“When a new component comes in, we can scan it and then scan the aircraft where the component will be installed to digitally pre-fit them,” said Marc McChesney, manager of systems engineering in Oklahoma City. “That means we can digitally inspect and assess before the customer buys a component that’s not going to work. In one case, we found a component didn’t fit as intended, so we built an inspection data set and sent the report to the purchasing vendor, so they’d know exactly what needed to be fixed. And we did all of that in about 16 hours of labor.”
After a different customer had already spent 900 days searching for an older aircraft replacement component, RACER was used to scan the part and design a solution — in one day.
“There are a lot of failed installations out there that we could correct,” he said. “And everything is done digitally, so we can repair, overhaul and inspect components without any customer-provided tooling.
“RACER™ is a great example of using technology to pinpoint an issue and make better informed decisions to solve problems that are very common in a depot environment,” Gardenhour said. “We want to get aircraft off the depot lines and back out to the customer as quickly and efficiently as possible. That means making sure mechanics can do what they are hired to do — direct labor fixing airplanes — not being sidetracked by indirect tasks like searching for obscure parts.”
RACER™ isn’t limited to use on aircraft. It was utilized earlier this year to scan a hangar for precise dimensions so technicians could maximize the space by determining the most efficient way to position multiple aircraft inside for maintenance work.
“Yes, RACER™ is transforming the way we can quickly and efficiently repair, sustain and modernize products we did not design,” said McChesney. “But the opportunities to use this technology are endless.”
To reach out to the Northrop Grumman Global Sustainment and Modernization team, please contact: