Pneumatic semi-handheld drills for the aviation industry
Boeing, one of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers, needed to modernise its stock of drills for fixtured drilling. They contacted Atlas Copco to help with development and construction. Atlas Copco had initially planned to make an electric machine, but Boeing were adamant that they wanted to have a pneumatic drill, which was not a problem in and of itself, as Atlas Copco have a great deal of experience with compressed air machines. Boeing being one of their biggest clients, Atlas Copco usually deliver a large quantity of equipment for the aviation industry. But they had never made this type of rather complex machine before, and it presented a sizeable challenge.
“Boeing want compressed air machines in production since their factories are built for this. There simply isn’t enough effect to draw from the mains voltage in the facilities, and reconstruction would be costly,” says Mikael Eriksson from Svekon, who had already been employed by Atlas Compco at the beginning of the project in order to contribute concept suggestions and subsequently also develop the machine to the production stage.
The drill had to be light, easy to handle and easy to service. The challenge was to solve all of the technical problems while also beating the competition – in every aspect.
The project began during the height of a significant recession, but this turned out to be an advantage – workshops were readily available, which helped produce a number of prototypes in record time. The mission also meant a new niche for Atlas Copco, which they plan on investing in heavily in the future.
“The Svekon-team were involved from the very start of the project. Our part in it was to develop concept proposals, gears, gear functions and compressed air control logic for the various features of the machine. It takes many different gears for a number of different speeds and feeds in order to get an efficient drilling process for various drill diameters. The machine is designed for drilling holes from 12-35 mm, as well as for different material stacks.
The solution was a PFD (Positive Feed Drill) that was lighter and had more power than the competitors’. The machine weighs approximately 5 kg. In addition, the modular design meant that the speed and feed rates are by many times faster than those of competing machines. What is more, this concept effectively facilitates maintenance and repair.
“This project has been extensive; it has taken about 2 years. It was a large-scale procedure with ten prototypes for Boeing to validate. The machine has since been approved by Boeing, so that they can now use it in production. At Boeing, they are very satisfied with the machine. But we have had an offensive approach to the building work in order to reduce the machine size enough,” concludes Mikael Eriksson.