Portable metrology for large scale installations and alignments

PES – United Kingdom

PES (UK) Ltd provides high quality engineered products and materials to global industries, along with specialist installation and design services. Operating in fields such as construction, formula 1, engineering, aerospace, printing, energy (onshore & offshore), automotive, rail, scientific and defence industries since 1979.

PES’s work covers the machine tool market with equipment like precision levelling mounts for machine tools, vibration control, bed plates and surface tables. They also cover alignment work for installations utilising high strength grouts and repair mortars. Onlookers would be forgiven for thinking that concrete and grouting work such as this is easily measured with a tape rule, in fact this requires high precision measurement on a very large scale.

A long term relationship

“PES have been using measurement and surveying systems from Leica Geosystems since those very early days back in 1979”, explains Robert Elsey, Managing Director. “We started off using several manual Wild T2 Theodolites which served us well for years and then we purchased a Leica TDA5005 which brought us into the digital age”.

The Leica TDA5005 Industrial Total Station is primarily used for alignment projects and is credited with having allowed PES to tender for, and win, many new and challenging projects. More recently the requirement for even higher accuracy in their line of work led them to consider a product from the world of Portable CMMs.

Obtaining the Leica Absolute Tracker AT401 has allowed the company to progress even further into the field of large scale alignments. Obtaining the Leica Absolute Tracker AT401 has allowed the company to progress even further into the field of large scale alignments.

Alignment on a huge scale

A recent project undertaken on behalf of Broetje Automation at GKN Aerospace in Bristol was the layout of a complete new manufacturing facility for the Airbus A350 composite wing spars. Broetje needed a supplier that could cover marking out, drilling, installing, levelling, aligning and grouting of hundreds of positioning cones – all skills that PES could cover.

The cones would be used for automated pallet systems which move the large Airbus work-pieces from one manufacturing cell to the next, allowing for accurate and automated re-positioning. Initial marking out was a job for the Leica TDA5005, but for the much more precise alignment work the Leica Absolute Tracker AT401 was used. A typical accuracy requirement for the alignment of each cone is 50 microns.

To get an idea of scale for this installation, a typical wing spar is 20 m (65 ft.) in length and this factory will ultimately house five of the world’s biggest automated carbon-fibre laying machines.

One advantage of the Leica Absolute Tracker AT401 in this huge working environment is its portability, with battery power and a Wi-Fi link to the laptop there is no need for any cables. The Leica Absolute Tracker AT401 is also IP54 certified; ensuring that it is capable of working in the harshest of conditions like the factory floor at GKN Aerospace where all around holes are being drilled and concrete is being poured.

Traceable measurements

Traceability is now much easier due to being able to easily configure reports from the Leica Absolute Tracker AT401, the Wi-Fi connection ensures that results are immediately available on the laptop. Previously 2D measurements would be written down on paper, today full 3D data is available to PES engineers at the touch of a button.

Essential - training & support

One of the things that PES needed when they acquired the new portable CMM was good quality training and support. Robert Elsey explains “Customer relationship plays a big part; our traditional use of instruments from Hexagon Metrology over a few decades and having an open relationship are very important to us and give us great confidence.”

“One challenge for us is that our customers expect highly skilled engineers to perform the work needed, with the training from Hexagon Metrology applications engineers we have the confidence to perform well in front of our clients”.

Bright future ahead

With the Leica Absolute Tracker AT401 and other Hexagon Metrology systems in their arsenal, PES see a bright future ahead of them, especially with expansion into growing markets such as renewable energy. With over 70% of the projects they undertake requiring measurement instruments the accuracy and portability of the Leica Absolute Tracker AT401 gives PES the confidence that they will be able to secure many more missions in the future.

Hamish Eccles