Case Study

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Redesigning An Aircraft Paint Hangar System

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  • Needed engineering to fill in and work for hire
  • Tight schedule
  • New technologies
  • Collision avoidance
  • Explosive environment



  • Extremely precise crane and wingstand movements with collision avoidance and greatly improved productivity
  • More flexible collision avoidance system reduced costly delays of having to repark aircraft
  • Improved air handling system enhanced efficiency of painting and curing processes
  • Consistent programming and common device usage simplified maintenance
  • Complete documentation improved system maintenance and troubleshooting

An aircraft manufacturer required a complex, multi-faceted system to upgrade its plane-painting hangar. Concept Systems Inc., a Rockwell Automation Solution Partner, helped an Aerospace Manufacturer reduce accidents and increase efficiency in their system with their innovative software OnGuard.

OnGuard is Concept Systems collision avoidance software. For the greatest efficiency, painters must quickly get very close to the aircraft, however, their movement must be constrained to avoid crashing into the aircraft. Using 3D modeling, multiple PCs, a PLC interface, and theodolite surveying equipment, OnGuard predicts and prevents costly collisions from happening while offering a user-friendly experience for operators.

The result was a system that allows for flexible aircraft parking, but it is also highly accurate; the operator cranes can quickly reach within 4 inches or less of the aircraft without risk of contacting it.

The Process Air System was another critical piece of this project. The assigned Concept Systems process control engineer used only one ControlLogix processor to manage the entire air-handling system with function block programming. Through the software, the engineer produced much more accurate control of dramatic temperature shifts, despite significant differences in the air handling system’s mechanical components.

Providing an easy-to-maintain system was important to all subsystems in this complex project.  Concept System’s engineers programmed on the same RSLogix 5000 platform, using consistent programming structures and naming schemes. Now, the customer’s maintenance crew only needs to know one platform for system troubleshooting and modification.

Consistency throughout the hangar was maintained in the off-the-shelf Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® drives used in the various subsystems. Even if drives serve very different purposes, they were programmed in a similar manner. Concept Systems standardization practices improved maintenance capabilities.

The encoder system was another major system improvement in the paint hangar. Linear encoders chosen for the cranes provide tremendous accuracy and repeatability. Absolute encoders, also used on the cranes, do not require time-consuming rehoming/re-calibrating after a power loss or maintenance downtime like in the old system.

Inexpensive, explosion-proof, encoders on the wingstands provided precise platform heights and angles. All the hangar’s encoders delivered the tight tolerances, high accuracy, and repeatability required for their critical operations.

This complex project involved several of Concept's engineers working on very different subsystems. Their consistent, expert programming resulted in a dramatically more accurate, efficient, and maintenance-friendly aircraft painting control system than existed before.


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