Tech

March 13, 2013

Mitigating risk: NASA Dryden’s counterfeit parts screening system

Preventing counterfeit parts from showing up in NASA Dryden aircraft and equipment takes a team that includes (from left), Steve Wildes, Sherry Schmitz, Nadia Wright, Jaime Garcia and Steve Foster.

NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center is at the forefront of developing aerospace technology and it is now recognized as a model for ensuring that none of that technology fails from the use of counterfeit parts.

Steven Foster, Dryden’s lead specialist for procurement quality assurance, spearheaded the development of a process that greatly reduces the possibility of receiving and using counterfeit parts.

“We might sometimes add a few steps in a process, but we sleep better at night knowing that we have done everything we can to mitigate that risk,” Foster said. “Some people take the road of least resistance. We don’t.”

Counterfeit parts makers are becoming more sophisticated and attuned to the market, making it a growing problem for industry and government, Foster said. Suppliers selling counterfeit parts across the nation increased 63 percent from 2002 to 2011, adding 9,539 new high-risk vendors in 2011 alone.

It is estimated that about 2 percent of all parts purchased by the government are counterfeit – more than 500,000 parts a year. An example of the problem was $2.7 million in damage to a U.S. Department of Defense missile system caused by the use of counterfeit parts.

“In a recent webcast to 30 countries, we explained how Dryden reduced the risk of counterfeit parts with good processes in place to do a thorough vetting of companies, ranging in size from a mom-and-pop store to a multi-million dollar corporation,” Foster said. “We use that data to make informed decisions about if we want to use a supplier.”

One of the most recent tools used to uncover substandard materials and counterfeit parts, the material analyzer provides an instantaneous readout of the content and quality of the material being checked.

An electronic risk assessment questionnaire was developed at Dryden to determine a company’s records on where parts came from, controls on how the parts are acquired and tested prior to the parts arriving here. A point system from zero to 100 was developed to determine risk. The higher the score the more confident Dryden can be that it is safe to purchase from the company. A score of 52 is required in most cases to procure parts, Foster said.

“Traceability is a big part of aerospace. Where did this part originate? Some suppliers can only trace it back to a country. Of course we won’t use it because we don’t know exactly where it came from and the risk would be too great,” Foster explained.

It’s not always easy tracing the origin of parts, even those that are common off-the-shelf items.

“Some vendors do not want to release information when we start digging. If they refuse to give it to us, we disqualify them,” Foster said.

“There can be a situation where a high-risk company is the only one with the part we need. We still get it, but we increase inspections and testing of the part before it is put into an aircraft for flight,” he added.

Dryden has found counterfeit parts, one that cost just a nickel each. The parts were tie straps, also known as “tie wraps,” that are most commonly used for bundling wires together so they did not interfere with other control or structural components. The parts were procured from suppliers overseas.

“Low cost items can have a high cost on our operation,” said Steven Wildes, chief of the Quality Assurance branch. “Dryden technicians would put the tie wraps on and the part would snap and break in half. We evaluated why the tie wraps would break and determined they were counterfeit,” Wildes said.

Another example was when Dryden ordered O-rings for a jet engine component. What the center received was a video recorder belt labeled as an O-ring that was “very obviously a counterfeit part,” he said.

Former center director Kevin Petersen was concerned about counterfeit parts in the mid-2000s and Wildes was chosen to focus on the quality of parts. In recent years, Wildes hired Foster to focus on refining processes to filter out counterfeit parts. Without a good system to detect them, finding parts for some of the center’s aging aircraft can open the door for counterfeit part suppliers.

The dedication to keeping fake parts and subpar materials out of Dryden shops and aircraft continues with the center’s current director David McBride. McBride approved a state-of-the-art material analyzer recently that assists in determining the quality of delivered parts and materials.

Quality assurance representative Scott Erickson explained the analyzer can determine the chemical make up of materials in a minute or less. In addition, it is so sensitive that it can also be used to investigate even light elements, solder, and welds.

Previous equipment could only analyze general metals, but the new instrument is capable of looking at complex chemical elements used in the development of electronics. It is used to sample deliveries from established vendors and mills and in more extensive investigations on materials from new vendors or from foreign mills.

Scott Erickson prepares a material analyzer to determine the quality of metal sheets that were delivered to Dryden.

Using the device, “We can trust what we are getting,” Erickson said.

Dryden’s Quality Assurance team is now looking for ways to better share what the center has learned.

“We are also working with NASA Headquarters to develop a single list of cleared suppliers for use by all NASA centers. That information could also be shared with different agencies and companies,” Foster said.

The goal of these efforts is the same – protect people from injuries and eliminate unknowns about parts and materials from the risks that must be taken for a successful flight test program.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines April 14, 2014

Business: U.S. Navy looks to leverage submarine work to keep costs down - The U.S. Navy hopes to save money and time by leveraging industry investments as it replaces its Ohio-class nuclear-armed submarines with the Virginia-class attack submarines now built by General Dynamics Corp and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.  Study raises red flags on California aerospace...
 
 

News Briefs April 14, 2014

U.S. Navy destroyer Zumwalt christened in Maine The U.S. Navy has christened the first ship of its newest class of destroyers, a 610-foot (186-meter)-long warship with advanced technologies and a stealthy design that will reduce its visibility on enemy radars. The warship bears the name of the late Adm. Elmo ìBudî Zumwalt, who became the...
 
 
Navy photograph by Seamn Edward Guttierrez III

Russian aircraft flies near U.S. Navy ship in Black Sea

Navy photograph by Seamn Edward Guttierrez III Sailors man the rails as the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook arrives at Naval Station Rota, Spain, Feb. 11, 2014. Donald Cook is the first of four Arle...
 

 

45th Space Wing launches NRO Satellite on board Atlas V

The 45th Space Wing successfully launched a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 1:45 p.m. April 10 carrying a classified national security payload. The payload was designed and built by the National Reconnaissance Office. “I am proud of the persistence and focus of the...
 
 

U.S. Air Force selects Cubic for Moroccan P5 air combat training system

Cubic Defense Systems, a subsidiary of Cubic Corporation announced April 11 it has been awarded a contract valued at more than $5 million from the U.S. Air Force to supply its P5 Combat Training System to the Moroccan Air Force. Morocco will join the United States Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, along with a...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph

NASA’s Orion Spacecraft powers through first integrated system testing

Lockheed Martin photograph Engineers in the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, perform avionics testing on the Orion spacecraft being prepared for its first trip to space later this ye...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>