VM professionals are faced with a huge range of different tools to service, repair, over haul and
maintain many a wide assortment of aircraft to ensure their structural soundness. The size and type of an AVM tool will differ from one aircraft to another because of differences in aircraft size. Engine and hydraulic AVM mechanics will have very large wrenches, while electricians and avionics technicians will have precision screwdrivers.
Regardless of their size or use, as any aircraft evolves, so must the tools that support it. Advances in AVM tools allow AVM professionals to work on the latest materials and newest application specifications while complying with regulations, and troubleshooting, diagnosing and correcting discrepancies. Some AVM tools like hammers and screwdrivers have remained unchanged with only slight alteration; others have evolved to become state of the art.
New advances in tools not only aid overall aircraft maintenance, but also worker safety and ergonomics. “Like any industry, there is a need to work quicker and more efficiently,” said Dan Riccio brand manager of hand tools & storage, Stanley Black & Decker. “At the same time, a premium is placed on worker safety to avoid unintended injury by not only jobsite dangers, but overuse injuries. To fill this void, many manufacturers are designing tools to be more ergonomic. By designing with ergonomics in mind, it helps any industry, including aviation, to improve worker safety, performance, and profitability.”
“Tools and tool management systems within aviation maintenance are developed to enable the technician to work safer, to improve the quality of the maintenance task, and to do the job with greater ease,” said Andy Lobo, director-produce management and development at Snap-on Industrial. “When these developments are adopted widely, the seconds of time saved on a task by using a new tool or system quickly add up to man-hours, man-days, man-months and even man-years (sic) of savings, collectively advancing the whole of the aviation industry.”
Fundamental designs in AVM tools are being made to make them lighter and easier to use. For example, the basics of installing and removing rivets have not changed much in 50 years. However, newly designed tools make it easier and safer on the operator to produce better quality riveting more consistently.
“Tooling advancements help reduce the risk of injury for technicians who work on aircraft and can also help decrease the risk of damage to aircraft,” stated Paul Dellinger, director of environmental health and safety, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation. “New and better tooling also helps to maximize work efficiency. Many of our advances in tooling come to us internally. This is, in large part, the result of our safety management system and continuous improvement culture at Gulfstream, which encourages technicians to improve a process or suggest the customization of a tool to make it better. We also look at a tremendous amount of data, which helps us identify an issue and gets us to the point where we can begin to design or select a better tool.”
Another example is socket usage. Sockets are often called upon to break loose very stubborn fasteners in some very access- restricted areas on aircraft. “For the socket to work in such a confined space, its walls have to be thin and strong,” said Lobo. “Thin and strong is a dichotomy unless you pick the right materials and have extremely tight tolerances on your sockets. Snap-on spline sockets are a good example of this, utilizing steel with up to 80 percent greater yield strength than most other tool steels used to make sockets.”
Vibration and abrasive considerations
Hand/arm vibration syndrome is driving AVM tool advances, with specific concern for workers that use powered hand tools like grinders. “A tool that can be used effectively with less force, less repeated movement and less awkward positioning of the body is one less likely to cause injury to the technician that uses it,” Dellinger said. “This is the kind of tool that we will give major consideration to using in our maintenance organization.”
Not only are tool manufacturers designing advanced low-vibration options, but so are abrasive manufacturers. Rex-Cut Abrasives, Fall River, Mass. provides a specialty cotton- fiber abrasive material with a cushion action that while in use, allows the points or
wheels to run smooth without chatter. The smooth operation of cotton-fiber abrasives virtually eliminates vibration, allowing more comfortable and safer conditions for workers. Bob Costa vice president of sales and marketing at Rex-Cut Abrasives believes in addition to safety training, making sure operators know the maximum operating speed of a tool and the abrasive, wearing correct safety equipment, using appropriate pressure, and keeping safety guards intact, will keep incidents down.
Riccio added that AVM hand tool advances that prompt safety not only include anti- vibrational handles, but also anti-slip grips and non-sparking materials.
Creating advanced AVM tools with a longer lifespan is one way to help reduce downtime and costs for aviation maintenance. Advanced AVM tools that last longer than their standard counterparts will reduce
costs and inventory. “Abrasive products with longer life will also limit the need for switching abrasive discs as often, decreasing finishing downtime,” noted Costa. “Rex- Cut recently introduced Quick Change Disc Max, a premium abrasive disc that lasts four to five times as long as non-woven surface conditioning as well as cloth back coated abrasive quick change discs. These new discs are available with different grits/bonds to fit a wide range of applications. Being delayed by under performing abrasives is a problem many maintenance departments can’t afford.”
For users to attain longevity advances with hand tools, Riccio suggested selecting tools designed with the durability to endure the constant rigors of industry demands. “Seek high-quality material and product warranties,” he said. “Select tools that will help you work smarter, not harder.”
Stanley Black & Decker’s new Proto Precision 90 Ratchet’s compact pear-head design and 4° swing arc provide users access in difficult and tight working areas. “It’s a common rule of thumb is that the higher the tooth count, the less degree of arc swing a user needs to move a ratchet before the pawl catches the next tooth (allowing the ratchet to tighten the fastener),” said Riccio. “Tooth count and arc swing are very important in determining the appropriate ratchet based on job demands. With a tooth count of 90, this ratchet delivers high precision while offering high access.”
Hammers and mallets are used for striking where the force of the hand is insufficient. Since it’s a legacy, mainstay tool, one does not think of these simple tools as being advanced are even capable of being advanced, but companies are still finding ways to increase their productivity and usability. New designs have a top-welded handle- to-head assembly to add extra durability and safety. Handles can be reinforced with a solid-steel shaft for strength and safety. Dual- molded grips improve the handling for users.
Screwdrivers were first used in the late 15th century and today are used on aircraft to loosen or tighten screws, or screw head bolts. Apex Tool Group’s Power Tools Division’s Utica torque-limiting screwdrivers are designed for better ergonomic functionality. Features of the Utica torque-limiting screwdrivers include:
- Easy-release bit holder for fast bit changes
- Durable all-aluminum housing to reduce weight
- Ground and tuned torque spring for repeatability and accuracy
- Precision ground roller cam to prevent over-tightening
- Color coded casing for easy reference (TS-series Standard models)
Pliers come in various configurations and are used as an AVM tool to crimp metal, hold objects, make adjustments, twist wire, and even remove or install safety wire. “Snap-on’s recently launched one-handed safety wire pliers shave seconds off of each safety wiring task by freeing a technician’s hand to hold the lock wire or fastener better enabling the appropriate twists per inch and lock wire routing,” Lobo commented. “Safety wiring tasks can number in the hundreds on the simplest component replacement, and those hundreds of seconds per task can add up to real savings. In another example, Snap-on’s Level5 Automated Tool Control system can place calibrated items in an optically or RFID-controlled box near where the plane is parked, saving the technician a trip to the tool crib (which could be a 20-minute drive, one way, across active ramps).”
There is a new generation of AVM hand tools that optimize safety for the maintenance professional who needs to be hands-free on the job. These new systems help users comply with drop-prevention practices and fulfill safety requirements, while work is done productively at heights. Although it’s possible to use lanyards to eliminate possible dangers, some lanyards can still create a problem because they are either too long or too short, and can get tangled easily. Impractical lanyards also have the potential to cause injuries when working at height and in close proximity to moving objects.
“One of these enhanced systems, the PROTO Skyhook System provides a more secure hand tool transfer at height, more natural freedom of motion, and tool accountability,” explained Riccio. “The design includes active attachments that are always engaged during transfer from hand-to-hand, person-to-person, or hand-to-holster.”
Take care of them
Regardless of the AVM tool — simple or advanced — or its application, it must be cared for. Keep your tools in good condition and protect them from rust, nicks, burrs and breakage. Use your tool only for the job it was designed to do. A screwdriver should not be used as a chisel. Avoid placing tools on or above machinery or an electrical apparatus. Never leave tools unattended where machinery or aircraft engines are running. Never use damaged tools.