The Engineering Data Branch at Oklahoma’s Tinker Air Force Base (AFB) operates and manages a U.S. Air Force (USAF)-designated Category V Engineering Data Support Center (EDSC) that provides an official Department of Defense (DoD) repository for weapon systems engineering data/drawings. Digital data is stored in the Joint Engineering Data Management Information and Control System (JEDMICS). The branch employs approximately 35 personnel for the acquisition, management, storage and distribution of engineering drawings.
The time required for the engineering data repository to provide a needed stable-based engineering data drawing (known as Mylars) to a customer could be as much as 7 to 15 days. In urgent situations, this created unacceptable delays in the customer processes required for the essential maintenance of affected weapon systems.
In today’s military and business environment, success depends upon the quality and accessibility of information and the speed in which the information can be disseminated. To facilitate the speed of information dissemination, the DoD and USAF policy and directions regarding engineering data include a move toward a completely digital environment.
As in previous initiatives to digitize legacy drawings and aperture cards, the OC-ALC EDSC needed to also digitize undimensioned drawings on stable-based material (Mylars) to preserve and fully utilize the government’s investment. The overall goal was to fully integrate legacy Mylars into the automated work environment through digitization and subsequent storage in the JEDMICS.
The Engineering Data Branch at Tinker AFB researched several possible solutions for digitizing and integrating the legacy Mylars into the automated work environment, including:
- purchasing equipment for in-house digitization;
- contracting with a drawing conversion service; and
- doing nothing and maintaining the status quo.
Various types of equipment and equipment scenarios were considered as part of an in-house solution. It was determined that this option would be high-risk, because purchasing the equipment capable of providing the required digitizing accuracy would be expensive and costly to maintain.
Maintaining the status quo was also considered a high-risk option because of the potential for loss due to damage, destruction and fading of the existing Mylars.
It was determined that contracting with a drawing conversion service provided the least risk and most benefit.
CAD / CAM Services, Inc. was one of the sources discovered, during the Engineering Data Branch’s original market research, that was capable of converting undimensioned engineering drawings to digital format with precise accuracy. However, the requirement was provided to the Tinker AFB Contracting Office, whose processes included solicitation from many vendors. After evaluating vendor responses, Tinker AFB selected CAD / CAM Services based upon its technical proposal and cost providing the best value to the government.
Why CAD / CAM Services Won
The Tinker AFB project required a tolerance of +/-.005-in. accuracy over any 5- or 10-in. area for the digital scanned files. The drawings are on Mylar, which is a plastic sheeting material that may be affected over the years by changes in temperature. This means that the older drawings may have stretched or otherwise changed in size, affecting the accuracy of the drawing itself.
“The accuracy of the final digital file is of paramount importance to us,” says Frank Maschino, engineering data manager at Tinker AFB. “These digital files are stored in Tinker Air Force Base’s electronic repository as a permanent archive for all of our drawings. If we need to refer to these digital drawings, or print out a new paper drawing, it is essential that the measurements be as accurate as, if not better than, the original Mylar drawing when it was new.”
CAD / CAM Services has a proprietary method that electronically compensates for error within each 5- or 10-in. portion to restore original drawing accuracy. This is a Boeing and Lockheed certifiable tolerance for aircraft drawings.
“The scanning accuracy requirement called for in the bid far exceeds the accuracy that is available from any conventional scanning system,” notes Scott Shuppert, president of CAD / CAM Services. “We are one of only a few firms worldwide that’s able to generate calibrated digital files of this accuracy. Our approach is unique, and it enables us to specialize in tough jobs like this.”
Unlike photography, electronic images are not dependent upon room conditions such as humidity, the scan or scanning issues, the quality of the original, or other external circumstances. CAD / CAM’s process is the only method that can allow this type of accuracy, with the electronic image becoming even better than the original. CAD / CAM’s method is also significantly less than half the cost of methods previously used.
CAD / CAM Services also helped the Tinker AFB Engineering Data Branch locate precision plotters that can plot new, hard-copy drawings on stable-based material from the new digital images when required. This will enable the branch to provide a customer response time of about two hours instead of the previous seven to 15 days to purchase a reproduced copy of an undimensioned drawing on stable-based material.
Tinker AFB is nearing completion of a project that will provide official certification of its digital Mylars and local-plotting process. This will allow the base to elevate and share its entire process, including CAD / CAM as a source for digitizing Mylars. It is expected that the review will be positive.
CAD / CAM Services