Product Development – Adding New Capabilities to Industrial Equipment

Trade-show demo unit in ~3 months and commercialization in ~6 months

Client – Aero Specialties – an established manufacturer

“The team at SGW have individual skill-sets that work together to create a ‘can do’ operation at the same time being mindful of budgets and commercial cost constraints.”


Expertise Applied


Special tractors, which are used to tow all types and sizes of aircraft, exert a great amount of force and can over-stress nose and landing gear if not carefully operated — resulting in the aircraft being taken out of service for expensive repairs. Keeping stress loads within acceptable ranges relies on the skill and experience of the tractor operator.

TLD Tractor

Aero Specialties recognized they could help to remove human error by developing a system that displayed the load exertion in real time and automatically reduced or cut the tractor throttle when loads approached the critical level. 


SGW Designworks developed a PLC based system that measures and logs the load applied to the aircraft landing gear via the tractor tow bar. The system connected to the tractor on-board CAN system, cutting tractor throttle just before an overload event occurs. Since each aircraft has different load limits, the system needed to be easily configured by the tractor operator for the specific aircraft. The product was designed as a retrofit or add-on for specific tractor models.

Retrofit installation of load sensor

Results / Outcomes

  • Two trade-show demo units built and shipped for sales use 3 months after project start
  • Full product launch 6 months after project start


With two key milestones — the trade shows (requiring two prototypes for sales demonstrations) and the target commercial launch date — and tight time frames for both, SGW Designworks put the project on an accelerated schedule, running multiple development cycles in parallel:

  • User interface development and programming
  • Component research to determine what could be purchased and what needed to be developed
  • Rugged yet beautiful enclosure design for the touch screen and other system elements
  • Data logging, management, and reporting scheme – including ignition interrupts based on real-time load cell data

It was immediately clear from the onset that in order to have physical prototypes ready for the trade shows, final design optimization for production as well as some specific functionality would need to be incorporated into the design after the trade shows. This decision allowed SGW Designworks to focus on producing a visually representative, seemingly full-function system for use at the trade show meeting the following requirements:

Prototype installation on tow tractor, for trade show demonstration
  • Provide the Aero Specialties sales team a demonstration tool to generate pre-sales of the system
  • Demonstrate the system functionality using one tractor installation and one pedestal-mounted system
  • Allow users to test and provide feedback on the user interface of the system, including menu structure and screen navigation
  • Allow users to provide feedback on the enclosure design

Aero Specialties received the prototype units in time for the trade shows, where they were met with positive reviews. SGW Design-works continued with design finalization, while incorporating user feedback from the trade shows. Late-stage development focused on continued iteration and refinement of the user interface and menus, ruggedization of the enclosures, design consideration for future system expansion and generation of the final design package for production. Six months after the project started, production of the patented SiPsHitch™ product began. Aero Specialties is currently fulfilling orders, and getting positive feedback from customers about the product. Aero Specialties are engaging SGW Designworks on new development projects focused on other product lines within the Ground Support Equipment market.

Functional Prototype GSE Safety Equipment
SiPsHitch System

PLC Software DevelopedHardware Developed Technologies Leveraged
Sensor Data ProcessingSystem Sensor SelectionIndustrial PLC Programming Tools
Data Logging and Reporting SchemeLoad Cell Selection and IntegrationCAN Bus Protocol
Drivetrain Soft InteruptMounting Hardware and BracketrySolidworks 3D Modeling
PLC Display Content and User FlowDrivetrain Communication and InterruptSolidworks Simulation / FEA
System Login and User MgmtSteel Enclosure for SensorsAdobe Creative Suite