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.”ROD GRAY, VICE PRESIDENT, GPU DIVISION, AERO SPECIALTIES
- Product Design & Development
- Design For Manufacture
- Enclosure Design
- User Interface Design
- Rapid Iterative Development Cycles: Build-Test-Learn
- Prototype Development
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
|PLC Software Developed||Hardware Developed||Technologies Leveraged|
|Sensor Data Processing||System Sensor Selection||Industrial PLC Programming Tools|
|Data Logging and Reporting Scheme||Load Cell Selection and Integration||CAN Bus Protocol|
|Drivetrain Soft Interupt||Mounting Hardware and Bracketry||Solidworks 3D Modeling|
|PLC Display Content and User Flow||Drivetrain Communication and Interrupt||Solidworks Simulation / FEA|
|System Login and User Mgmt||Steel Enclosure for Sensors||Adobe Creative Suite|