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V-22 Osprey fuel lines created as needed…right on the front lines

  • Pines benders deployed on US Marine aircraft carriers and in mobile trailers at air bases
  • Benders interface with CMM and make identical copies of lines pulled from the Osprey
  • Each plane slightly different; more precise fit of fuel and hydraulic lines
  • Reduces inventory of pre-bent fuel lines
  • Machines specially built to withstand shock, salt, vibration and temperature
  • Simplified controls for less familiar repair crews

Pines Manufacturing of Westlake, Ohio was awarded a $2-million contract with the Boeing Corporation for nine semi-automatic draw bending machines with another 25 to be delivered in a follow-on contract with the US Navy. Pines manufactures CNC, semi-automatic bending machines, bend tooling, end forming equipment and remanufactured Pines bending machines.

The Pines benders will be deployed with US Marine Corps aviation logistics squadrons to aid in bending tubes used in fuel and hydraulic systems. Primarily the benders will be used to make replacement fuel and hydraulic lines for the V-22 Osprey. However, the benders may also be used to support the Joint Strike Fighter, UH-1 Hueys, AH-1 Cobras, CH46’s Sea Knights, F/A-18’s Hornets, AV-8B Harriers, and CH53’s Super Stallions—basically most of the aircraft in the Marine Corps inventory.

The new benders are built in two special configurations – one for mobile land operations and one for fixed, shipboard-based applications. In land-based applications, the benders will be installed in trailers that can be easily moved anywhere the Osprey is deployed. In sea-based applications the benders will be installed on the maintenance decks of LHD and LHA class aircraft carriers.

Kile Snyder, Sales Manager/Director of Federal Contracts said, “These are no ordinary benders. We had to meet a challenging military design and test specification. The benders were designed with a small physical profile in order to fit into the maintenance trailers and confined shipboard spaces. It required designing and building a new compact machine from the ground up. These small units pack a wallop – a lot of capabilities in a small profile."

Three bender prototypes were designed and built. An independent lab then tested them. Special modifications were made to beef up critical areas to handle the adverse operating climates the USMC deploys in.

During the testing phase, the machines had to survive EMI (Electro Magnetic Interference), hot and cold temperature extremes, a shock test to simulate a shipboard explosion, and shipboard vibration and corrosion tests to simulate a 30 year exposure to a salt water environment.

Special Controls

Because the machines are not in constant use, and not all crew members are equally familiar with the benders, the machine controls were programmed with special menus so that unskilled personnel could operate the benders quickly and efficiently. Bending programs are stored in the controller.

When a new part is required, the control prompts the operator step-by-step through all procedures required to bend the desired part configuration to the aircraft manufacturer’s quality specifications. The control steps the operator through tool selection, setup, bend process, and bend defect corrections. The control also has a manual mode that permits the operator to position machine components for easier tooling setup and adjustment. No special programming knowledge or mathematical calculations are required.

The Marines who visited Pines recently for familiarization training remarked on how easy it was to follow the procedures in the control menus and produce consistently accurate bends on test parts.

Interface with Coordinate Measuring Machine

The Osprey is a vertical take off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. Its rotating propellers, vibration and potentially harsh landings can be rough on fuel and hydraulic lines. These operational stresses on the airframe cause fuel or hydraulic lines to differ slightly from plane to plane.

Because of these variations, bending from program memory or using pre-bent parts is not as desirable as making exact duplicates from the actual parts. To solve this problem, the Pines benders are interfaced with a coordinate measuring machine (CMM).

When a line needs to be replaced, it is taken off the airframe and measured. The CMM takes physical readings off the tubing and creates a program to create an exact duplicate on the Pines Bender.

The machines give the Marines the capability to bend more precisely – even with unskilled personnel – and eliminate the need for stocking pre-bent lines. Now they stock only blank tubing and make precisely fitting duplicates of fuel and hydraulic lines they have just removed from the aircraft. Turnaround time is quicker, costs are minimized, and storage issues of pre-bent tubes is eliminated.

Ian Williamson, President and CEO, said, “Pines has about 300 machines in service for military bending applications, not only for the US military, but also Israeli, Australian, Canadian, Taiwanese, Malaysian, French, Brazilian, and Royal Saudi, militaries. “Between 20 and 40% of Pines sales are for military bending applications and we expect that number to grow over the next few years,” he added.



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