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Quality Digest


2022 Department of Defense Maintenance Innovation Challenge Winners Announced

Aircraft maintenance and repair lead the way

Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2023 - 13:00

(Department of Defense: Orlando, FL) -- On Dec. 13, 2022, the Overall Award winner and the People’s Choice Award winner for the Department of Defense Maintenance Innovation Challenge (MIC) were announced during the DOD Maintenance Symposium in Orlando, Florida.

The Overall Award winner is “E-Drill: A New Way to Remove Aircraft Fasteners,” submitted by Jim Becker from Perfect Point EDM and Jared Wright from Naval Air Systems Command. The People’s Choice Award winner is “Fiber Optic Fusion Splice Repair,” submitted by Brett Jordan from Air Force Research Laboratory and Tech. Sgt. William Kesler from the Aircraft Battle Damage Repair Technical Support Office, Air Force Sustainment Center.

Perfect Point EDM has invented a rapid way to remove aircraft fasteners: the E-Drill, which uses a semi-automated, plunge-cut electrical discharge machining or “EDM” tool to remove a fastener in seconds. Crews use the provided tooling to properly align E-Drill’s copper electrode, pull the trigger, and E-Drill completes the drilling process. The removed fastener is in two pieces: head and pin, with no shavings.

E-Drill uses vacuum-assisted alignment jigs that enable it to access more than 95 percent of aircraft fasteners, including upside down, curved, or vertical sections. Studies show at least a 75 percent reduction in aircraft damage, and a 20-fold reduction in time to remove a fastener. On Aug. 18, 2022, NAVAIR issued an official authorization letter clearing E-drill for use on an initial set of general use cases.

The People’s Choice Award winner, Fiber Optic Fusion Splice Repair, offers a new way to repair fiber cables. Unlike with copper wiring, there is no approved procedure for repairing fiber-optic cables onboard aircraft. The current practice is complete, end-to-end replacement of damaged fiber-optic cables. The procedure is intrusive, time consuming, and negatively affects aircraft readiness.

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Electrical and Electronic Materials Evaluation Team and Aircraft Battle Damage Repair Office worked together with Aurora Optics Inc. to adapt a commercial, fiber fusion-type of repair and adapted it for military-type fiber cables. The starting point was a Boeing-approved kit for use in commercial Boeing aircraft. Fiber Optic Fusion Splice Repair tooling allows permanent repairs to broken fiber cables with a minimum increase in tooling for maintainers. Field testing demonstrated that a trained maintainer with the proper equipment can perform an acceptable fusion splice repair on an aircraft in roughly 20 minutes, while the current practice of replacing a damaged fiber-optic cable can take hours or days.

The Joint Technology Exchange Group (JTEG) principals served as judges, selecting the Overall MIC winner from a total of 92 outstanding entries. Audience members at the MIC session selected the People’s Choice award winner from the six finalists, based on their presentations.

The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) is pleased to support the 2022 MIC by providing $50,000 of in-kind support to both the Overall Award winner and the People’s Choice Award winner. The funds will enable the winners to conduct further demonstrations for DOD representatives.

The MIC competition is open to new innovations that include novel technologies, unique collaborative business relationships, resourcing strategies, business processes, production processes, and any other transformative capability that has the potential to make maintenance and sustainment more agile, effective, efficient, and affordable. For information on all six finalists, click here.


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For 40 years Quality Digest has been the go-to source for all things quality. Our newsletter, Quality Digest, shares expert commentary and relevant industry resources to assist our readers in their quest for continuous improvement. Our website includes every column and article from the newsletter since May 2009 as well as back issues of Quality Digest magazine to August 1995. We are committed to promoting a view wherein quality is not a niche, but an integral part of every phase of manufacturing and services.