Cordless tool for multiple applications in the aerospace industry

January 11, 2023

Desoutter has developed an innovative cordless tool for the aerospace industry that can be used flexibly for a wide variety of drilling and assembly processes.

Their advantages come into play in situations where a large number of demanding manual work steps have to be mastered while at the same time high quality and traceability are required.

“We developed our new, smart XPB tool for demanding manual operations in the aviation industry”, says Lukas Kois, Product Manager at Desoutter in Maintal. “Thanks to their modular design and a large selection of adaptable heads, the machines can be used for numerous applications, such as drilling, countersinking, reaming, deburring or assembling sewing needles. This makes them far more than just a drill: there has never been a tool like this!”

The simple function change is made possible by a powerful and precise quick change system for the tool heads. Head detection via RFID is integrated for application-specific tool programming: these are identified and the tool configured accordingly using transponders installed in the individual heads. The various attachments range from standard drilling heads to drilling heads for particularly hard or multi-layer materials, to offset drilling heads and hydraulically controlled solutions for CFRP applications. In addition, the user has programmes available for the assembly of sewing needles and for Hi-Lok screw connections.

Much more flexible than compressed air tools

The XPB does not require a cable or tube and has a maximum output of 420 watts (W). It thus has the potential to replace the currently prevailing compressed air tools used in the aerospace industry. “With this tool, employees are much more flexible at work and are no longer as restricted as they used to be due to the compressed air hoses”, emphasises Lukas Kois. In addition, trip hazards that could arise from tubes are avoided. Users would also find the low noise level very pleasant. On the basis of only one drive, numerous applications could be covered in combination with the various attachments. “With speeds of up to 18,500 revolutions per minute, we can serve all areas and materials in the aerospace industry with a single tool”, explains Kois. “The great advantage is that the speed does not decrease under load, as is often the case with compressed air tools, but remains constant”. The speed can be freely programmed in two steps within the limits.

High level of quality and process security

“The desired speed to be set can be called up via a two-stage intelligent start button - this is ideal for drilling in multi-layer materials, for example”. In the first stage, the user can start with a higher speed and then switch to a lower one during the process or vice versa. The torque can also be determined depending on the application and the material. “This enables users to achieve a significantly higher level of quality and process reliability”.

Two white tool LEDs illuminate the work area and offer such a good view of the application. Via two additional LEDs, the worker receives feedback as to whether work steps have been performed correctly (green LED) or incorrectly (red LED). Thus, the tool signals by flashing or continuous lights, for example, that the proposed time for an assembly step has elapsed or that the compression pressure was correct. Warnings are transmitted as flashing LEDs, errors and messages are displayed on the display (from model XPB Advanced onwards). In addition, the user can easily select the desired set of parameters.

Ergonomic and safe

In essence, the smart tools consist of high-quality aluminium 7075 of aerospace quality. The housing is lightweight and optimised for easy maintenance. “We provide the worker with a perfectly balanced tool, with ergonomic grip, a low noise level and a weight of just 1,200 grams including head and without battery”, Lukas Kois adds. “In addition, so-called winglets - the small wings on the tool sides - allow for a perfect drilling position. And the pistol-shaped grip guarantees that compressive force and drill bits lie on the same axis”.

These innovative tools are operated with Desoutter's standard high-performance battery. Two different battery positions can be chosen for better accessibility and balance. Both 18 and 36 volt (V) rechargeable batteries are available, while the 18 V battery with capacities of 2.1 and 4.2 ampere hours (Ah) are available. According to Desoutter, the smaller rechargeable batteries can last for 250 drilling or mounting cycles, while the 4.2-Ah rechargeable batteries will operate for 500 cycles per charge. These values refer to work on 10 mm thick aluminium with drill bits with a diameter of 4.1 mm. This battery is compatible with all other Desoutter tools.

Available in three expansion stages

The manufacturer offers the drilling and mounting machines in three variants, which should be selected according to requirements, application width and quality control: The XPB basis tool is equipped with a drill nut. The XPB Advanced also features a display, LED feedback and cycle counters, can store six different sets of parameters and offers the ability to generate drilling curves. Finally, with the XPB Modular, a function is integrated via which the heads can be replaced using a quick change system. The heads can be individually adjusted depending on the application.

Special application: assembling sewing needles

“Assembling sewing needles, just like drilling, is characterised by high demands in terms of accuracy and productivity”, says Desoutter’s Product Manager, Lukas Kois. “We counter this with controlled Cp / Cpk values as well as the possibility of being able to easily set in the software the exact speed and torque required”. Precisely one speed and one torque are normally assigned to each sewing needle head, for which aircraft manufacturers would have had to use a correspondingly large number or compressed air tools. “With the XPB, you now only need one tool for multiple applications”.

The user can be sure that 100% of all sewing needles have been installed by means of an optional cycle counter that keeps track of the number of assembly steps carried out. This also applies to the assembly of tear-off collars, where it must be ensured that 100% of the collars have been torn off at the end of the assembly process. Even without a view of the assembly point, the Desoutter XPB has appropriate strategies by which you can be sure that the collar has broken off.

Compatible with the Smart Factory

Desoutter provides users with the free XPB-Config software for configuring the XPB tools and heads. This also allows access to data and drilling curves. The open architecture of the tools also makes it possible to embed them in Industry 4.0 production environments.

Since the modular XPB system covers a large number of applications, not only the costs for the investment are reduced, but also the costs for the calibration and maintenance of the tools; this is because significantly fewer machines are required than in the case of compressed air tools without exchangeable heads. The cycle counter, which includes all drilling or assembly operations, gives the user full control over maintenance intervals and downtimes of the cutting tools. Less waste thanks to better quality control and a brushless and therefore low-maintenance motor also reduce the total operating costs.

Desoutter XPB cordless tool
The Desoutter XPB cordless tool was specially developed for aircraft construction. It has the great advantage over compressed air tools of being flexible without cables and tubes. (Image: Desoutter)
XPB tool heads equipped with RFID
The XPB can be used with various tool heads equipped with RFID chips and can therefore perform numerous different functions in aircraft construction. (Image: Desoutter)
Desoutter XPB with 360° angle head
Desoutter's innovative tool here with a 360° angle head that can also be used to reach places that are not accessible with normal tools. (Image: Desoutter)