Measurement of rotor blade

Using ZEISS' ATOS system Physical Digital® becomes world’s first company accredited by Nadcap AC7130/4

The aerospace industry places particularly high demands on product reliability and safety. Nadcap (National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program) is a worldwide cooperative program for major companies to audit their suppliers regarding special processes and products and to improve continuous development within the aerospace industry.

ATOS ScanBox at Physical Digital

The measurement cell at Physical Digital.

Nadcap accreditation is globally recognized as a company’s commitment to excellence and a trusted symbol of compliance. ZEISS' service provider Physical Digital® is the world’s first company to be awarded with Nadcap accreditation for measurement and inspection using 3DSL scanners. To meet the standard, they have invested heavily in developing process, procedure and their equipment, which includes, for example, the introduction of the high-resolution and high-accuracy ATOS Triple Scan.

ATOS 5 for Airfoil scans blade

ZEISS' ATOS 5 for Airfoil scanning a turbine blade.

Nadcap accreditation is conducted by task groups with specific expertise based on different checklists for measurement equipment and processes. The 3D scanners checklist Nadcap AC7130/4, originally known as 3D Structured Light checklist, is the standard that is applicable to ATOS equipment and applications.

To meet the standard in Nadcap AC7130/4, Physical Digital has undertaken business and process improvements, aligned their 3D measurement service with aerospace requirements and invested heavily in the latest equipment by introducing, for example, an ATOS ScanBox automated inspection cell and a high-resolution ATOS Triple Scan sensor.

Daniel Lainchbury, Engineering Manager from Physical Digital, regards ZEISS as a great partner of measurement in the gas turbine industry. “Nadcap has a high standard on accuracy, traceability and repeatability, and ZEISS’ system is almost the only system that can be compliant to the standard,” he said. ZEISS' automated system ATOS ScanBox has played a key role for Physical Digital to win the accreditation since customers can get very stable, repeatable measurements for statistical data analysis.

ZEISS' ATOS series of industrial non-contact 3D scanners using structured blue light provides precision scans with detailed resolution at high speed. ATOS is engineered with advanced hardware and intelligent software for repeatable, accurate measurements with flexibility and process reliability. Lee Griffiths, responsible for Business Development at ZEISS, says: “We have been working alongside the AC7130/4 checklist for some years now and recognize it’s a high accreditation standard. Being close to the requirements, we know how to achieve the accreditation with our systems and are delighted that Physical Digital have demonstrated this. We are excited and well positioned to support our existing and potential customers to achieve this status over the coming months and years.”

Physical Digital has provided 3D Structured Light (3DSL) measurement services to the aerospace industry since the company was founded in 2005, the company completes repeatability studies, batch measurement, inspection and analysis on industrial components from single turbine blades to complete jet turbine engines and full aircraft. The technological advancements made by ZEISS have earned Physical Digital not only a high-standard accreditation but a prestigious reputation as leader in offering 3D scanning service.

Turbine blade inspection with ZEISS software.

Turbine blade inspection with ZEISS software.

ZEISS' ATOS Technology is accepted by Rolls-Royce

Optical 3D inspection can reduce the inspection time by up to 60%. It has taken off in the aerospace industry. The AC7130/4 checklist is a tribute to the success and has now standardized the approach for measurement with such systems by aerospace companies using 3D scanners as a method of product verification.

Rolls-Royce has issued a “Notice to Suppliers” that instructs suppliers using 3D scanning equipment that they must achieve Nadcap AC7130/4 within a defined timescale. ZEISS' Lee Griffiths says: “The Notice to Suppliers from Rolls-Royce sends a really positive message to the industry that ATOS technology is accepted and fit for purpose on gas turbine components.”

The Nadcap accreditation framework is not new. OEMs and supply chain companies have been using Nadcap as a standard to audit their suppliers for many years, including for other measurement technologies like CMMs, articulated arms and airflow. According to the Aerospace Testing International Magazine, in general, surveys of the Nadcap-accredited supplier base show that 93% believe that accreditation is added value for their company, while 77% think that being Nadcap-accredited has helped them win new customers or projects.

Why is Nadcap important for the aerospace industry? And how do you achieve it?

Nadcap is the benchmark for high quality requirements of the aerospace industry. It has a high audit standard. “The Nadcap audit is more in-depth than other non-destructive testing (NDT) or quality audits, and every non-conformance initiated requires a thorough response,” Mark Aubele, Senior Program Manager for NDT at the US-based Performance Review Institute, told the Aerospace Testing International Magazine.

Prior to Nadcap, aerospace companies audited their own suppliers to their own process requirements to verify compliance. There are a lot of regulations and standards to adhere to, but Nadcap found that there was no common standard for measurement and inspection using 3D scanners. Also, these duplicate audits brought no added value but redundant and additional workload. Therefore, Nadcap replaced all the different customer audits. The Performance Review Institute was commissioned to administer the Nadcap program. Unlike third-party programs, Nadcap approval is granted based upon industry consensus.

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Physical Digital Ltd.

Founded in 2005 by Tim Rapley, Physical Digital is the UK’s largest service provider of 3D Structured Light (3DSL) measurement, quality inspection, measurement planning, fixture design and implementation, ATOS ScanBox programming (including series 8) reverse engineering, and design services using the world-renowned ZEISS non-contact, high-accuracy measurement systems. Physical Digital offers both mobile, on-site 3D scanning as well as 3D automated measurement services in their specialist, environmentally controlled metrology cell based in their facility in Guildford, Surrey.