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Aircraft maintenance made easy, a new support system tailored to the needs of maintenance engineers

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Zur Forderung Der Angewandten Forschung E.V. : 25 May, 2006  (Company News)
Aircraft mechanics work under extreme conditions. In the SNOW project, Fraunhofer scientists and their partners in industry have developed a support system tailored to the needs of maintenance engineers. The EU project and other topics will be presented at stand D22 'Signposts to tomorrow's markets' in Hall 2 at the Hanover Fair.
Smart products and environments: SNOW, Service for nomadic workers
Aircraft maintenance engineers do not have a fixed place of work. They test a wide variety of different aircraft parts and are constantly on the move. In the SNOW project, Service for nomadic workers, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Architecture and Software Technology FIRST are working together with EADS, SAP, Siemens Business Services, Loquendo, Advanced Computer Vision GmbH and Graz University of Technology to give maintenance engineers more help with their work. Until now, all work processes had to be printed out prior to a maintenance job, recorded on paper and then entered on the PC again. About 50 percent of working hours are spent searching for the right information, and it's difficult to examine an aircraft engine with a stack of paper in your hand. The work has to be interrupted many times simply to enter the data, print out the information and read the instructions for the next stage. A PDA controlled by voice or gesture recognition cuts down the paperwork and provides all the vital information whenever it is needed. Maintenance engineers can either access the server directly online via a WLAN connection, or, if for any reason the connection is lost or unavailable, use the data stored on the PDA. It is also easy to establish contact with experts or other colleagues by cell phone in critical situations. And not least, the system makes it quick and easy to add notes and comments on the individual work steps and processes. Since maintenance work often takes place under difficult conditions, for instance surrounded by the intense noise of running engines or in the semi-darkness of an engine room, the maintenance information can be output in text or image format, or even as voice output.

Human-machine interaction, Operating computers with your eyes
Operating a computer by eye movement, what may at first sound like science fiction is reality today. Visitors to the Hanover Fair can try out for themselves how to navigate through a program with their eyes. In the EYCIN project, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO in Stuttgart are using a system that tracks the direction of the user's gaze.

A new visualization tool chain developed by scientists at the
Fraunhofer Institute for Communication Systems ESK in Munich accelerates the transition from design to prototype. It creates visualizations with a greater depth of detail and high-resolution displays that can be scaled up or down without loss. Besides being used in prototyping, for testing different display designs, the human-machine interface thus created can also be used as system control panel in plant automation, for instance.

Micro power engineering, Power on the go
'We watch movies on cell phones and laptop computers, navigate with PDAs and listen to music on MP3 players. But these power-hungry applications reduce battery life to such an extent that we need new concepts for energy systems,' says Christopher Hebling of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE. Under the leadership of the ISE, scientists are working on new technologies that will make it possible to achieve greater energy densities and, when combined with rechargeable cells in hybrid energy systems, extend operating times. One of the researchers' goals is to optimize the power supply with a system of intelligent power management.

Adaptronics The noise buster
The metal casing around machine parts reverberates and power trains produce unwanted vibrations that put a strain on human operators and technical systems. The solution lies in active adaptronic structures that reduce machine or vehicle vibrations, and thus also the noise that they make. Other advantages include greater precision in the manufacturing process and lighter, more convenient, safer products with a wider range of functions. The 'Acoustics Aquarium' provides a hands-on demonstration of how the new materials damp vibrations and suppress noise. Adaptronic components can also be seen at the stand D16, which is likewise in Hall 2.

Lightweight construction New concepts for automobile and aircraft builders
'Down with the weight' is the automobile manufacturers' motto. Design concepts have to be lightweight, yet sturdy and reliable. Fraunhofer scientists present a new car door that weighs 18 percent less than currently used models, and is quicker to manufacture.

The builders of modern wide-body jets have to watch the weight as well. The fuselage sections of the new Airbus A318 are no longer joined with a million rivets, but married up in a single step using stiffening elements in a gigantic laser welding plant. The Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS in Dresden has been pursuing the laser welding project for nearly two years.

Polytronics Low-cost solutions for data transmission in industry
'Fiber to the home' to every household and every machine its own fiber-optic cable for data transmission, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institute HHI are coming closer to realizing this slogan with optoelectronic microchips. Low-cost, light-conducting polymer structures could soon be replacing expensive receivers, Wolfgang Schlaak of the HHI is convinced: 'By combining polymers with indium phosphide components such as diodes and lasers, we have developed a novel concept for the integration of optoelectronic microchips.' The HHI is partnered in this project by the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Teltow.

Also represented at the stand is the Fraunhofer Patent Center for German Research PST, which demonstrates its role as a service provider for the commercial assessment and exploitation of inventions and new technologies, including those chosen as 'Signposts to tomorrow's markets'.
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