Between 1990 and 2006, 700 fatal aviation accidents worldwide in commercial passenger service with numbers of casualties were reported. Equipment failure took 23% of the events, making it the top two categories which cause accidents and pose a threat to public safety..
We previously wrote about how manufacturers were using handheld XRF analyzers for performing Positive Material Identification (PMI) of incoming raw material to ensure it matches the alloy grade and composition documented on the material test report prior to product manufacture to help prevent critical components from failing due to material defect. These analyzers are also used for final quality inspection before finished parts are sent to the customer. This “double-check” process helps ensure that the incoming raw materials and the outgoing finished parts meet the expected engineering requirements. (Read Quality Assurance of Critical Fasteners.)
In aerospace industries, component manufacturer must ensure their products in compliance with specification and it can be done with PMI. Meanwhile, airline and/or MRO might conduct failure analysis to prevent the aforementioned failure and to improve reliability of their components.
Below is a case study of how one airline is helping to ensure the safety of its passengers by using portable XRF analyzers.
GMF AeroAsia, one of the biggest service providers that specializes in aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) in Southeast Asia, takes its in-house positive material identification (PMI) process seriously.
The process used by GMF AeroAsia includes performing pre-failure analysis of failed component due to inadequate information from maintenance manual regarding material composition. The outcome of PMI will be used for further investigation of failure root cause to prevent breakdown and its costly consequences. Aircraft engineers from the Material Process Unit utilize handheld XRF analyzers to perform PMI on aircraft-related parts such as main wheels and landing gear component, bolts and metal debris from engines, and towing equipment, etc. In addition, they also perform PMI for non-aircraft parts such as industrial gas turbine and other supporting tools and equipment upon request.
Prior to using handheld XRF analyzers, samples were sent to labs for analysis and the waiting time for test results would take up to 5 days.
Handheld XRF analyzers used in manufacturing, however, not only deliver rapid lab quality results for these users but also provide true mobility. When users require a hands-free method to analyze small samples, such as bolts and nuts, the handheld XRF analyzer is paired with a portable test stand which helps position the sample. The stand contains a lightweight collapsible tripod and sample chamber that enable the manufacturer to easily transport this alternative to various sites. An integrated micro camera enables precise small spot analysis – even the smallest texts on the bolts can be read.
Because of their portability, handheld XRF analyzers can be used anywhere in the aircraft component manufacturing supply chain to improve process and quality control, including equipment manufacturers, fastener manufacturers, steel manufacturers, etc.
For additional information, visit the Manufacturing & Metal Fabrication pages of our website.
 Oster Jr., C.V., J.S. Strong and C.K. Zorn. 2010. Why Airplane Crashes: Causes of Accidents Worldwide. USA: Transportation Research Forum.