GE prepares to roll out smart wrench

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GE's Quality Technology Centre is preparing to roll out to maintenance shops and manufacturing plants a "smart" torque system that will ensure technicians correctly assemble key hardware components on aviation and industrial equipment.

Called Tork Trak, the system, currently in prototype form, uses wireless 3d sonic spatial tracking technology similar to a Nintendo Wii system to communicate between a computer and a specialized torque wrench equipped with orientation and position sensors and other equipment.

During a 26 April demonstration at the jet engine manufacturer's plant in Cincinnati, Ohio, a GE technician using the smart wrench demonstrated how the system guides the worker through the correct process of tightening specific bolts on a CF6 turbofan engine high pressure turbine disk being reassembled.

Along with a nearby computer screen that provides visual feedback when the task is complete (the bolt turns green), the wrench will also disengage if the technician attempts to torque a bolt out of the pre-established sequence.

GE says the device will tested first in its marine and industrial engines division, but could later be used for torque applications on GE90 turbofan engine gearbox assemblies and other components.