Effectively Measure Rotor Blades for Helicopters

AgustaWestland reduces measurement time by 50 percent

Traffic observation, mountain rescues, transportation, and military missions on land and at sea: helicopters are the workhorse of the air. The power of their rotors is the primary source of their capabilities.

The situation

A helicopter engine must keep tons of weight in the air. Elastic compound materials and the optimal aerodynamic shape of the rotors play a key role here. However, modern rotors also reduce noise and help lower fuel consumption. Their profiles and surfaces are perfect examples of curve and freeform surface measurement. Compliance with geometric tolerances ensures that the rotors always generate optimum lift at different speeds.

The challenge

The AgustaWestland production facility in Anagni, Italy, has been measuring rotor blades for helicopters with an SMM-MT horizontal-arm measuring machine from ZEISS for more than 20 years. In 2008, AgustaWestland ordered a PRO T horizontal-arm measuring machine from Carl Zeiss equipped with a VAST XXT TL2 scanning probe on the RDS stepping articulating probe holder with CAA (Computer Aided Accuracy) and CAD-based CALYPSO measuring software featuring the Curve option. This total solution will replace the SMM-MT.


The installation of the new measuring machine was a revolution for the company. In the past, the rotor blade was positioned on its leading edge. The new measuring process with PRO allows the technicians to place the rotor blade on its underside. Although this meant abandoning a 20-year-old measuring method, the transition delivered many benefits. Thanks to a special clamping system, two rotor blades can be positioned above each other and measured in one run. This new arrangement facilitates the measurement of the entire aerodynamic profile with the underside, leading edge and top of the rotor blade. Furthermore, the company switched to the VAST XXT scanning probe on RDS. The possibilities opened up by the articulating probe holder allow the probe to be positioned anywhere. Therefore, a single short stylus is all that is needed instead of a T-shaped stylus system with a long extension in the Z axis.

CALYPSO software also had a positive effect on AgustaWestland: it considerably simplifies the use of the measurement data report, enables the import of CAD data and allows integration into the corporate network. Furthermore, the measuring technician is able to start CALYPSO and Curve from one interface at the same time using the Autorun feature.


Overall, the time required for one measuring cycle was reduced by half. With this solution, AgustaWestland is able to guarantee that its rotor blades will continue meeting the highest demands on quality. A good thing considering all that is hanging in the balance.

About the company

AgustaWestland, the Anglo-Italian helicopter company owned by Italy's Finmeccanica, is a total capability provider in the vertical lift market. With its rotorcraft systems design, development, production and integration capabilities, its experience in the training business and its customer-focused Integrated Operational Support solutions, the company delivers unrivalled mission capability to military and commercial operators around the world. This expertise enables the company to provide military and civilian users around the globe with first-class assistance for their missions.