How do Laser Tracers solve problems in aerospace manufacturing?

How do Laser Tracers solve problems in aerospace manufacturing?

The uniqueness of Laser Tracker measurements

No other measurement tool, except the laser tracer, enables aircraft manufacturers to secure the entire production process. We can detect this device from the very beginning of the project to the final dimensional control. Due to their extremely long range, precision and speed, measurements made with laser trackers provide manufacturers in the aerospace industry with increased competitiveness by significantly reducing costs. This is because we are moving the entire design and development process to the virtual world.


When building an airplane, it is difficult to reconcile the size of its components with the requirement for accurate manufacturing. Airplanes, to a greater extent than any other machines, seem to confirm the saying that “the devil is in the details,” as they
Minor errors or inaccuracies can cause serious detrimental consequences, such as greater drag or even shorter aircraft range. The trend in surface shipbuilding is toward a uniform design, with smooth, flowing curves and no visible joints.

Even the previously ubiquitous rivets are disappearing from external surfaces. Prodcuneci are replacing them with composites, which connect the individual components continuously. Large structures, such as wings, fuselages, and vertical stabilizers, used to be difficult to make with equal accuracy, as there was a lack of ways to measure large structures accurately. The traditional instrument for measuring objects over 6 meters was the theodolite. However, the theodolite was used for road and surveying measurements , not for determining exactly where the end of the cantilever is located and how it is shaped, when the distance is 15 or 30 meters and accuracy is the key to maintaining flight performance. While theodolite measurements can be quite accurate, they are subject to
interpretations and, as such, are not always repeatable. In addition, the theodolite is slow and measuring several hundred points with it can take up to several days.

It was not until the advent of laser tracers that precise, accurate, yet fast and repeatable measurements over long distances became possible. Laser tracers, collecting data from hundreds of points in a few hours, have supplanted theodolites and opened the
new capabilities in aircraft design, modeling and tooling construction, and manufacturing and quality control worldwide. Laser tracers are often used to align large industrial machines, such as metal rolling mills, printing presses and power plant equipment, but it is reasonable to believe that they were developed specifically for the aerospace industry.


We can mount the laser tracker, whether on the assembly floor or in the factory, and its huge range is enough to accurately measure the wings of the largest aircraft ever built. Operation of the instrument is quite simple but engineering knowledge and experience are required to interpret the results. The tracker, when mounted on a tripod, sends out a laser beam that reflects off a marker placed at the point to be measured. When the operator moves the tracer from point to point, the light beam returns to the tracer each time. The distance to each of these points is then calculated.

The laser tracker is connected to a laptop computer, where the data from the measurements taken are compared with a master CAD file or analyzed by an experienced operator. Because the laser tracker is so accurate over short distances as well, many users use it to measure smaller parts – where the largest dimension counts up to about 1 meter. Measurements made with laser trackers wykonumey at least 20 times faster than with a theodolite. It allows engineers to perform frequent dimensional design checks as they make incremental changes to the model or tooling layout, and after each such change, check the fit of the part or surface with a tracer. The measurement cycle with the help of the tracer can be carried out after each small change, the corrections are then small, allowing the design team and toolmakers to quickly arrive at the final result, which is the required shape.

Instrumentation manufacturing

Repeatability and interchangeability of parts and assemblies has been a fact of life for some time, but further quality improvements are constantly required. This involves some initial thinking and figuring out how best to fit together and connect the components. Today, too, more attention is being paid to tooling than was formerly the case with earlier generations of aircraft, and this applies to both metal and composite parts. Measurements with the Tracker in this industry are of greatest benefit in the manufacture of instruments, calibration and monitoring of machine tools.

Instrumentation components in the aerospace industry

The basic element of an instrument in the aerospace industry is its frame. It is a sturdy welded structure, usually made of the same material as the manufactured part. As a result, both the part and the frame expand and contract their size equally under temperature changes. The other components of the tool are called “accessories.” The first type of fixture is all kinds of washers, on which the parts adhere. The pads mark the location of the
place the part to be processed. The pads can be flat (planar) or freeform, according to the size and shape of the part. Special chucks are also used to gently press the workpiece against the shim.

The second type of fixture is a locating element, equipped with pins of different shapes that allow the correct placement of the workpiece on the tool. The pads do an excellent job of supporting the part, although usually only in the
one plane. On the other hand, locating elements can ensure that parts are repetitively placed in the final assembly. This is made possible by studs that fit into holes or longitudinal grooves, which restricts movement in certain planes or directions. Together, the fixture components form a kind of control system, guaranteeing accurate implementation of project data. When a process engineer places assembly jigs, he first sets them up tentatively, then uses laser tracker measurements to adjust their position, detail by detail, until the whole thing matches the CAD master file.

C.D.N.. to learn more about how measurements made with laser trackers are helping the aviation industry.