GripChek - Real-Time Hole Depth Measurement System

Period of Performance: 01/20/2012 - 10/20/2012


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Systems and Materials Research Corporation
11525 Stonehollow Drive Suite A120
Austin, TX 78758
Principal Investigator


ABSTRACT: AutoDrills located at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics (LM Aero) drill over 12,000 holes in the wing skins and understructure on each F-35 aircraft. To ensure these holes get the correct fasteners, a technician must measure the depth of each hole and mark the dimension on the skin adjacent to the hole. This procedure is known as "gripping". LM Aero has suspended gripping due to the enormous time requirement - over 230 hours per aircraft. Systems and Materials Research Corporation (SMRC) proposes GripChek, an automated, zero time added, hole depth measurement solution. Since gripping is no longer being done, technicians tend to use fasteners that are known to be too long. This adds unnecessary weight, and affects the performance of the aircraft. Likewise, fasteners that are installed too short must be removed and replaced with the correct fastener. GripChek uses the drilling operation itself to determine and record the depth of the hole in real-time - exactly the right length fastener every time. GripChek will benefit the aircraft industry by reducing weight, cost, and waste with zero time added. BENEFIT: SMRC's GripChek real-time hole depth measurement system ensures ideal fastener length for each drilled hole. Furthermore, the system requires zero additional time to perform the measurements, and will port the information directly into the Digital Thread to be used in kitting or other tasks. These attributes result in improved throughput, quality, and consistency while greatly reducing operator workload and fatigue. SMRC enters into this Phase I program with a clear understanding of fastener installation, and design of automated CNC tooling for aerospace applications. SMRC also has had discussions with an established technology partner, Sandia National Laboratories, who has committed to provide its support to SMRC on this project. With a clear commercialization roadmap entering into Phase I, GripChek has a high probability of transitioning into the commercial marketplace, making it available to manufacturers worldwide.