Airbus Helicopters Trials Tech to Improve MRO Efficiency

Credit: Airbus Helicopters

Airbus Helicopters is testing a new solution to make MRO processes significantly more efficient. The proof of concept from JPB Systeme, called Smart Washer, eliminates the need for technicians to manually check the tightening torque level of bolts, which can be particularly time-consuming if it requires dismantling or removing parts.

Comprised of a device that wirelessly measures bolt axial load and tension and features a flexible end that can poke into difficult to reach areas, Smart Washer can directly measure bolt tension in a few seconds. According to Airbus Helicopters, the system could potentially provide significant efficiency improvements across its maintenance activities, such as periodic checks of the tightening torque on the main gearbox suspension bar attachment.

“This is a heavy maintenance operation that takes around two days and requires two engineers to check about 12 bolts,” says Georges Devilliers, senior expert for helicopter maintenance, Airbus Helicopters. According to Devilliers, Airbus has previously needed to measure the tightening torque by accessing the assembly, loosening it and then re-tightening it, which introduces room for error due to the need to dismantle parts to access the bolts.

“By comparison, using Smart Washer, the same task can be performed by just one engineer in about two hours,” says Devilliers. “We don’t need to physically access the bolts to perform the checks, so there’s nothing to dismantle.”

JPB Systeme Smart Washer
Smart Washer
Credit: JPB Systeme

In addition to registering bolt tension, Smart Washer can register other parameters such as date, location and temperature, so JPB Systeme says the solution could potentially be used to alert customers to other maintenance that needs to be performed. Although Airbus Helicopters is the first customer to trial Smart Washer, JPB Systeme says it is working with other unnamed aviation industry customers and that the device could be used for fixed-wing aircraft as well.

Smart Washer began development in 2018 and when the solution is commercially launched, JPB Systeme says it plans to provide an app that will supply tracking information about measurements.

JPB Systeme works with engine OEMs such as GE, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce and Safran on a variety of solutions to provide greater efficiencies in MRO and manufacturing. It is currently trialing a new manufacturing execution system called Keyprod that uses IoT technology to connect, track and measure effectiveness in industrial production processes. It has also seen commercial success with its borescope self-locking plug, which eliminates the need for lockwires when securing an engine’s connections prior to visual inspections. According to JPB Systeme, the borescope self-locking plug reduces maintenance time from an hour to just 10 seconds. The product is certified on a range of engines, such as the GE90-115 and GP7200.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.