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71st AMU 3D prints new innovative tool

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From left, Tech. Sgt. Derek Scott, 71st Aircraft Maintenance Unit CV-22 Osprey crew chief and Staff Sgt. Mark Birrenkott, 71st AMU CV-22 Osprey Avionics System craftsman, have been working on a new innovative tool at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., March 21, 2019. Scott came up with the idea and brought in Birrenkott as the subject matter expert in the area of the aircraft the tool would be responsible for cleaning. The tool is designed to clean out the Nacelle Heat Exchanger which basically keeps everything from overheating just like a radiator. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Nagle)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
The 71st Aircraft Maintenance Unit tackles the challenges of performing maintenance on the CV-22 Osprey every day. Adding to that challenge, is the aircraft flying and practicing landings in austere environments that have the possibility of kicking dirt up everywhere, including into the aircraft. 

“With the CV-22, specifically the maintenance of it, is a battle every day,” said Capt. Jessica Cocca, 71st AMU officer in charge. 

Knowing that the multi-mission, tiltrotor aircraft requires detailed attention after each flight, two NCOs came up with a way to reduce maintenance time and save money, by 3D printing a new tool that will help expedite the cleaning process of the heat exchangers on the Osprey. 

Tech. Sgt. Derek Scott, 71st AMU CV-22 Osprey crew chief and Staff Sgt. Mark Birrenkott, 71st AMU CV-22 Osprey Avionics System craftsman, are the men who have been working on the design and testing of this new tool. 

“With the maintenance difficulties that come along with the Osprey, every little bit of extra time saves us,” said Scott on why he decided to create this tool. “Making this tool is helping save the components and will mean we do not need to replace them as often.”

Scott came up with the idea and brought in Birrenkott as the subject matter expert in the area of the aircraft the tool would be responsible for cleaning.

“The tool is designed to clean out the Nacelle Heat Exchanger,” said Birrenkott. “And it basically keeps everything from overheating just like a radiator.” 

After 5 months working on the idea and getting with members at the Makers Hub at the Air Force Research Laboratory on Kirtland Air Force Base. The two were able to 3D print their new tool. 

The tool that is used now has a metal tip and uses air pressure and a minimal amount of water to clean out the dirt from the heat exchanger, Birrenkott explained. 

“The (new) tool allows more aircraft soap solution along with water and air,” he added “It will have it to where the solution will break down the dirt rather than having (the old tool) just trying to push all the dirt out.”

Birrenkott said that on average, maintainers here clean out the three heat exchangers on the Ospreys every couple days and every time the aircraft performs an austere landing.

With the conditions that the Ospreys fly here in New Mexico, the 71st AMU normally replaces out each heat exchanger twice a year. The new tool is projected to extend the life of the part three to four times longer, according to Birrenkott.

The tip design on the new tool saves man hours and maintenance down time as it allows the tool to reach one of the heat exchangers without needing to rotate the wing’s assembly.

“A big benefit of this new tool is that it is a flex tip; which means that if a maintainer accidently hits part of the aircraft during the cleaning, it won’t damage it, said Birrenkott. “The tool being used now can cause minor damage every time it accidently makes contact with the aircraft.” 

The tool is still being tested and is awaiting approval from the 71st AMU Quality Assurance section.

Once it’s approved, it will be used on the day-to-day basis, according to Cocca. 

“Leadership have been huge supporters of this idea. Allowing us time to work on the project even though our unit is busy with maintenance that Ospreys require,” said Birrenkott. “It’s phenomenal, there are a couple more things we need to do to it (tool) but they’ve been helping us tremendously.” 

Strong leadership support for innovation is not just within the unit.

“I really think across the group and the wing that we have done a great job of creating an environment where people want to think of things like this, want to innovate and want to make things better in their work places,” said Cocca.