Metrology Enabled Tooling for the Assembly of Aero-Structures

  • Oliver Martin

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Metrology and Tooling are considered as discrete disciplines within ManufacturingEngineering, however, assembly tooling often acts as a checking mechanism. Assembly tooling has the primary function of controlling part location during assembly; with a secondary requirement as a quality gate. In-tool checks are manual mechanical checks of the assembly, these gauging checks assume the tooling has the correct, nominal geometry. Tooling conformance is certified periodically; however these intervals can be up to three years. Further examination of the metrology requirements within the aerospace industry with respect to large scale assembly tooling identify a requirement to: reduce manual metrology checks, reduce tooling recertification time, and enable greater automation.Currently, there is a lack of integration between metrology and Wing-box assembly tooling. This research investigates how to increase manufacturing confidence with respect to tooling conformance; and, ultimately improve the manufacturing process for aero-structures, through the increased and enhanced use of metrology in the assembly tooling environment.The Metrology Enhanced Tooling for Aerospace (META) framework has been created to provide a robust framework for deploying metrology in the tooling environment.The major elements of the framework are subsequently detailed and demonstrated in three chapters: i) large volume metrology networks, for the measurement of tooling structures; testing instrument performance, quantifying and improving the uncertainty estimation, and ultimately, establishing a rapid measurement process for assembly tooling; ii) embedded metrology systems demonstrates how local measurement systems can be utilised to replace and improve on, traditional in-tool checks; and iii) metrology feedback presents an example of an automated tooling pick-up that manipulates the assembly to achieve the design intent.The contributions can be summarised as: firstly, the creation of the META framework for the deployment of metrology in assembly tooling environment, accommodating and facilitating a number of the future tooling and assembly requirements. Secondly, the establishment of a generic commissioning methodology and measurement strategy for the rapid measurement of assembly tooling to increase tooling confidence. The research output was demonstrated in a case study, through a combination of physical measurement and digital automation simulation to prove the process time was greatly decreased from current methods.
Date of Award14 Jan 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsAirbus Group Ltd
SupervisorVimal Dhokia (Supervisor), Stephen Newman (Supervisor) & Patrick Keogh (Supervisor)


  • Metrology
  • Tooling
  • Aerospace

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