The painting of Boeing airliners is done by skilled artisans who need to work quickly and accurately. As they work, they travel along the plane on movable platforms. They get very close to the plane, but the platforms must never be allowed to collide with the aircraft. An existing collision avoidance system had a few frustrating limitations, so Boeing hired Concept Systems to develop a better solution.
To paint each airliner, a crew of Boeing painters moves along the plane on eight moveable platforms that are controlled by the painters themselves. But the movement of the platforms must be constrained to prevent them from ever colliding with the plane. Boeing’s previous collision-avoidance system used a very coarse 3-D virtualization of the plane that sometimes prevented painters from moving the platform exactly where they wanted it. Additionally, when a new airplane model came into production, the painting hangar would be out of service for several days to update the system.
Concept Systems integrated various existing technologies to build an efficient automated collision-avoidance system. One of the breakthroughs was finding software developed at the University of North Carolina called the Proximity Query Package, which can detect approaching collisions between two different computer-generated objects. Integrated with Open Graphics Library and Boeing’s own design software, the system can build precise virtual representations of the situation in the painting hangar at any moment and then make complex decisions about what platform movements are allowed. Continue Reading →