• Aero

Rocket Engine Mfg.


When a rocket-engine manufacturing company has a problem, finding a solution sometimes truly does involve rocket science. Due to their critical nature, key parts of rocket engines must be X-rayed to ensure their integrity and thus their safety.

The process traditionally has been time-consuming and inefficient. Even with the most skilled technicians, it has been more of a trial-and-error experiment than an effective manufacturing strategy. This manufacturer called on us, and we automated the process using a custom Computer Numerical Control system.


ROI: 24 months

Project duration: 12 months

Client: 3 engineers
Concept Systems: 3 engineers

Concept Systems’ time on site: 21 days


The problem

To capture an accurate X-ray image, the X-ray tube, the part to be inspected and the image receptor all must be perfectly positioned. This traditionally was done manually, using a yardstick and twine. The operator would then examine the first image to determine if the pieces were properly set up. If not, adjustments were made and more X-rays taken. It’s easy to see the inefficiencies. While this company had refined the process using motorized arms, the arms still had to be manually jogged into place. So human error continued to affect results.

The solution

We proposed and engineered a system with a CNC controlling the arms, positioning them based on the registration information entered by the technician and a preprogrammed recipe for that part. The X-ray tube and image receptor move in concert around the part, always opposite each other, stopping to take the necessary shots and then moving on to the next. Since both arms are under common CNC control, the moves are tightly synchronized.

The results

Now, the technician enters the room only to load and register the part and then unload it when the inspection is completed. The need to rerun parts is essentially eliminated when the part is properly registered and the data is correctly entered. Parts are now loaded, registered and inspected in 30 minutes, on average, compared to a previous average of two hours. Aside from improved speed and accuracy, the customer reduced an ergonomic risk: the repeated opening and closing of the heavy lead-lined door.