Virtual Assembly Reveals Tooling Modifications


A major aircraft manufacturer explored the tooling cost involved in producing a ventral baggage compartment (Pannier), which could be exchanged with an existing extended ventral fuel tank, offering an additional, more affordable version of their aircraft.

 Virtual Assembly


An important component of this multi-million-dollar decision was the dimensional analysis of the existing tools developed a few decades ago. The need was to verify the tooling’s compatibility with the current aircraft build conditions.

Fortunately, one production part was built off the tooling before it was mothballed. We started with this part, scanning all of its surfaces and reverse engineering it along with the correspondent tooling, to verify the build.

Then we scanned the complete belly of one aircraft with a ventral fuel tank, and a second aircraft without a ventral fuel tank. We reverse engineered both, and aligned the data in an aircraft coordinate system.

 Tooling Modification

The critical part of this virtual assembly project was the perfect alignment of all collected data to the aircraft coordinate system. Complicating the task was that the only available reference points were three mounting features, which the assembly was to based on.

The process revealed a discrepancy in the aft mounting feature, requiring an adjustment of all relevant components. This corrected the aircraft coordinate system.


Our virtual assembly study showed that some of the existing tooling could be implemented as is, while other tooling needed modifications. The analysis specified the modifications required.