By Jonathan McFadden
Editor’s note: This is the third and final installment of “Engineering in Reverse,” a three-part series in which we will explore the facets of reverse engineering, from process to product. Check out the other series covering dimensional analysis and material analysis
The headlines are sobering. “Airplane’s design contributes to fatal accident.” “Cessna 210’s landing gear collapses.” “Check ride ends in crash.”
The reasons are varied. Poor plane design. An unexplained mechanical malfunction. Engine’s failure to regain full power.
As different as they are, these incidents — all reported within a year of each other, according to General Aviation News — have something in common: system failure.
While some accidents are unavoidable, there’s little doubt that some flaw or negligence in design contributes to the bulk of aviation-related crashes and crises that raise concerns about the quality of materials in aerospace and, worse, endanger lives. And while Monday-morning quarterbacking a tragedy is both ill advised and unhelpful, could it be that just one more test could’ve prevented a misfortune in the sky?
Safety and security in aerospace products are paramount. When engineers reverse engineer an OEM part, duplicating geometry and testing materials isn’t always enough. It’s critical to test articles and parts in controlled, simulated environments to validate reverse engineering and determine when parts will fail.
With the capacity to design equipment approved by the Federal Aviation Administration to test manufactured parts — AeroTech can simulate the part environment demonstrating how it will react in different scenarios. That way, you know the quality of the part you’re getting and how it will behave when it’s in the air.
AeroTech is also certified to approve and witness tests on the FAA’s behalf. That means the same engineers who help you reverse engineer parts will test and sign off on them. The takeaway: Align your business with AeroTech, and you’ll reap the rewards of a faster path to acceptable results.
How does it work?
So, what does this actually look like? Let’s take a look at flammability testing.
In every aircraft, there are parts that must be fireproof, and others that need to be fire-resistant. Using a tailor-made test rig for the part, AeroTech can subject the parts to burn testing to determine how they react when introduced to fire – are they fireproof like they should be or is there some flaw in the design that needs to be rectified?
What if you have a landing gear part? The FAA requires drop testing landing gears to validate airworthiness. Instead of dropping an actual aircraft on a landing gear, AeroTech customizes a test rig to simulate the actual drop.
Why can’t you just use FEA or some other computational modeling program instead of actual tests? AeroTech extensively uses computational programs during its reverse engineering processes. This step is crucial to make sure a test will be successful. By simulating an environment within the computer, we can run the appropriate test and be confident the part will pass before investing in testing.
What’s the deal with all the tests? It’s how AeroTech validates the assumptions during the reverse engineering process. It also replicates the real life situation experienced in the field which is impossible even with advanced computer modeling. Even better, it’s how the company gives clients parts they can trust. With simulated testing, all the bases are covered and the margins for human error compensated for. The FAA likes it, too!
Is it worth the investment?
If you’re a parts supplier that wants to take durable parts to the marketplace and earn a reputation as a reliable manufacturer, the answer is yes.
We get it: Budgets are tight and time is scarce. It might be hard to justify spending money and resources on testing of this caliber. But consider the consequences if you don’t.
Testing can help you avoid serious problems and hiccups that can have dire repercussions down the line. It’s one of the best ways to guarantee you are using your money wisely and providing parts that the FAA considers safe.
Don’t have the time and means to do it yourself? Turn to AeroTech. It specializes in simulation testing and only approves parts it knows will work. You need a partner you can count on. AeroTech is that partner.