Update: September 15, 2023
Today our team is reviewing, testing, and finalizing the web portal to allow customers to submit requests for laser-cut part replacements. We have invited a number of customers to assist in this testing process. We will send individual affected customers the information they will need to access the portal upon the conclusion of that testing process.
Our engineering team is completing work on an update covering laser-cut parts testing, evaluation, and classification. This document will help explain the statuses assigned to parts with some detail about how various parts are evaluated and statuses are assigned. We will also soon post an update to the laser-cut parts list document, which will include the latest updated statuses.
Updated: September 6, 2023
We anticipate that next week we will provide affected customers access to the web portal for requesting replacement parts. Customers will be presented with a list of laser-cut parts in each kit and will be able to specify which ones they need. We will also provide the ability to specify non-laser parts that are needed. As we’ve described in the past, laser-cut parts will be replaced with punched parts at no charge if requested. If a customer has punched parts that also need to be replaced, we will provide the opportunity to make that request and will display the discounted price of those parts on the portal.
The actual scope and volume of parts requested by customers will allow us to refine production schedules for requested parts, and from there determine shipping timeframes. From a business perspective, Van’s will need to be shipping both replacement parts and new kits throughout this process, and we are dedicated to getting replacement parts to customers as soon as we are able. Once part volumes and timing are calculated from the requests we receive, we will be able to communicate more information to customers.
We will also be sending Quick Build customers a survey to collect information concerning their kits.
Our engineering team’s testing process continues and significant progress has been made to include additional fatigue tests, finite element analysis, and destructive load tests. We will communicate additional information about the testing next week.
Updated: August 18, 2023
Progress in the testing program has been good and is still ongoing. Complete wing structures have been tested as well as continued testing of specific materials, holes, dimples, and fasteners in combination.
We anticipate launching a web-based portal interface in early September that will allow customers to select which laser-cut parts they need to have replaced. The portal will specify which parts are on the laser-cut list and the individual part counts for that associated kit. Customers will be able to specify which parts they wish to request replacements for, and to submit their request to Van’s Aircraft. More information about the portal will be released as we get closer to its availability.
In addition, today Van’s published a reference document providing visual identification assistance for the purpose of identifying laser-cut and punched parts. You may access that document at this link. We will be adding information to this document over time, including additional examples. We welcome feedback, which can be sent to email@example.com.
We anticipate releasing our next update on or before September 5th.
Updated: August 12, 2023
The testing of parts and structures is continuing, and meaningful progress has been made. Testing is being executed by Van’s and a third-party company that specializes in material science and structural durability. That company is also providing oversight and review of the test designs and results. Through our combined analysis, we will be able to arrive at and finalize our investigation with the most accurate and definitive answers to the questions that are being evaluated regarding the laser-cutting process and parts.
Our testing program has now entered a second phase, in which we are moving from coupon tests of different materials, thicknesses, hole sizes, etc. into the testing of representative aircraft structures for accelerated fatigue life evaluation. The data coming out of these tests is being used to make an accurate connection between test load cycles and aircraft life. Our testing is ongoing and thus far, we have observed no meaningful impact on the longevity of the airplane.
At this time we are also conducting computer-modeled finite element analysis to identify any higher-than-normal rivet loads and stress locations in our aircraft designs, which we might need to assess differently than the more-common, low-load locations. Outcomes of these studies will be used to determine if there are any parts that may require replacement. Finite element analysis work can be time-intensive, and there are many unique configurations of parts and assemblies to be analyzed. This work is being execxuted in parallel with the physical tests of materials and assemblies.
Replacement Parts Production
Laser-cut parts have been removed from our warehouse inventory and production of CNC-punched parts has been underway for several weeks to rebuild the removed inventory. These parts are being produced in-house under special high-priority production runs, as well as using additional capacity from a local outside partner/vendor. Our in-house production rate has increased as additional shifts have come online to allow our punch presses to run round-the-clock, seven days a week. Van’s has also purchased additional specialized tooling which is now arriving at our CNC-punch partner/vendor. The quality control (QC) process being leveraged between Van’s and the third-party CNC punch partner is the same process Van’s follows internally for producing its own CNC-punched parts. Plus, the parts being produced by the vendor are flowing through Van’s internal QC inspection program, as well, to ensure thorough QC coverage.
Inspection and Replacement Parts
For customers, a procedure for inspecting parts to identify which production process was used in manufacturing (laser-cut or punch-press) is currently in development and will be made available soon. When completed, this procedure will be used in conjunction with a dedicated online web portal, which is also currently under development, to identify and request replacement parts. Note that each kit that was previously delivered to customers may include a combination of punched and laser cut parts, and that part numbers on the labels of the parts were not different based on the process used in manufacturing. Some builders have completed more construction work than others, and during disassembly some parts may be damaged where others may not. The forthcoming web portal will allow a builder to select which laser cut parts are needed for replacement as well as any other associated parts needed due to damage, which will be made available at a significant discount. We will communicate more about the specific plans related to this topic in the future.
Quick Build Kits
We are also continuing our analysis of Quick Build kits in two key areas: Customers who have already received a kit, and those Quick Build kits that we have in our warehouse at Van’s.
We will soon be communicating with customers who have already received kits about information we have to help identify whether or not their kits may contain laser cut parts based on dates, batches and serial numbers and data from the QB assembly records.
For the Quick Build kits we have in stock at Van’s, our team is inspecting each kit for laser-cut parts. Some of the kits we have in our warehouse contain no laser cut parts, while others do. Our inspections are also allowing us to confirm data related to the assembly dates, batches, and serial numbers used in the identification of those kits with and without laser-cut parts. Again, we will communicate more on this topic soon.
We truly appreciate your patience and that of all our builders as we continue to prepare the punched replacement parts, complete our online portal for making your parts requests, and as we continue our inspections and testing of parts/materials/assemblies.
We will post our next update on or before August 18th.
Updated: Friday, July 21, 2023
We have updated the list of parts that were manufactured using the laser-cutting process to Revision 3. This update adds the A-710 stiffener to those wing kit lists where the part number is applicable but was missing.
Testing conducted thus far has been focused on the highest-priority, worst-case test sample scenarios, which are defined in terms of cracks in dimpled holes, their location and orientation, material thickness and grain direction, and alloy/type. These worst-case configurations and combinations were collectively defined by our third-party testing partner and the team at Van’s.
As of Friday, we have nearly completed testing of the highest-priority set of samples, which includes the worst-case specimens. The team is working on the next, expanded set of samples.
Our team plans to discuss information about the tests that have been conducted to date, and to provide an early report on what we know thus far during the “What’s Happening at Van’s Aircraft” forum, Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. Central Time at AirVenture Forum Stage 7, along with several other topics and updates. We will share initial testing information as transparently and openly as we can, in the context of a test program that has yielded meaningful results but has not yet been completed. The testing teams back home will continue to execute tests during the week of AirVenture and afterward, until the program has been completed.
Again, we appreciate your patience, understanding, and support as we continue our work.
Updated: Saturday, July 15, 2023
We have updated the list of all parts that were manufactured using the laser-cutting process to Revision 2. This change includes a flange part that was previously missing and corrects the list of parts for one kit that inadvertently included parts used on a different RV model. Please discard the previous version of the document and refer to the latest version.
Updated: Wednesday, July 12, 2023
As previously documented below, Van’s has recently received reports from some customers of cracks forming while dimpling and/or riveting dimpled holes in certain parts that were manufactured using a laser-cutting process. Today we are publishing a list of all parts that were manufactured using the laser-cutting process at any point in time between January 2022 and June 2023. Note that not all parts on the list were necessarily made using laser cutting for that entire period. The list includes the date on which each part was first available in our inventory, and therefore could possibly have been shipped in a kit crate. Please be aware that even then, if punched parts were also in inventory at the time, this date does not necessarily mean a laser-cut part was included in a kit shipment. We have included some information below to help you assess whether your part is laser-cut, or if it was made on our CNC punch presses.
This week Van’s will be emailing all customers who, based on the timing of their kit shipments, could potentially have received one or more laser-cut parts in a kit. If you receive an email notifying you of this, you should take the following steps to determine which type of parts you have. After that, you may also use the additional information below to assess your parts. Note that Van’s will be issuing more formal instructions for the assessment of parts both before and after assembly in the future.
Van’s Aircraft continues to test and assess laser-cut parts, as discussed in our previous updates. Many parts are still in the “being tested” status in the linked parts list document. We will revise and update that information as we receive and process it.
In the near future, Van’s will be providing an online method for builders to submit requests for replacement parts if and when they determine it is needed. That tool will consist of an online form that customers will need to complete and use to submit their requests. At this time we ask that you please do not call or place an order on our online store for replacement parts, as doing so will complicate the process of fulfillment. It’s important we standardize the process to help ensure it goes well. We truly appreciate your patience.
Determining whether your part was manufactured utilizing a laser-cutting process:
If your part was shipped with blue vinyl on the surfaces, you can know that it was CNC-punched and is not a laser-cut part.
If your part was shipped without blue vinyl on the surfaces, it may or may not be laser-cut:
- All heat-treated parts are not wrapped in blue vinyl, regardless of whether they were CNC-punched or laser cut (in the parts list, the “material” column will indicate if the part is heat-treated), and
- Non-heat-treated parts that were laser-cut were not wrapped in blue vinyl
Signs you can look for that would indicate the part was laser-cut:
- Holes that appear to be out-of-round in shape or somewhat jagged
- Holes that appear to have a notch in the circumference
- Holes may have small areas of staining from the laser, located at or adjacent to the hole circumference
In addition, our analysis confirms that hole shape and cut quality on parts made using the laser-cutting process varied somewhat between batches. Not all customers have experienced cracks forming in holes on these parts. We are conducting significant testing to evaluate in greater detail. The metallurgical and fatigue studies we have commissioned to further investigate this are still ongoing, and we do not yet have final information to share. We anticipate these studies will be completed over the next few weeks, and we are prioritizing the order in which the tests are being executed, such that we evaluate those components which are subject to higher loads/stresses first.
RV-12/12iS kit parts information:
The RV-12/12iS components that were laser-cut have been evaluated and tested in the highest-stress aircraft assembly to limit loads, during a course of testing representative of more than 30,000 hours of flight time (specifically, equivalent to one limit load event every hour for 30,000+ hours). Throughout those tests, no changes to, deformation of, or failure of the structure were observed. Also, note that RV-12iS parts that were fabricated using laser-cutting are not dimpled during construction.
Parts List Published:
A list of parts that were manufactured using the laser-cutting process at some point during the February 2022 to June 2023 period has been published at this link for reference. We have made an initial evaluation and classification of each part. These classifications are subject to change as we complete testing. The list is compiled and organized by RV aircraft sub-kit, to help facilitate your review. Note that parts that appear on this list, and which were received during the period in question, may have been either CNC punched or laser-cut during manufacturing. Therefore, we encourage you to look at your actual parts and evaluate the fastener holes. In addition, as the aircraft manufacturer it remains incumbent on you at all times while constructing your airplane to evaluate each part, hole, and rivet as you complete your work. It is the builders’ responsibility to assess each part and make his/her own determination as to the suitability of each part both before and after assembly. Van’s will replace parts that the builder/manufacturer deems are not suitable when the parts are available. The practical aspects of the current situation dictate that while Van’s will strive to produce and deliver replacement parts in as timely a manner as possible, it will take some time to complete that process and we appreciate your patience.
We will update the list of parts and provide additional information updates as new information is received. We will also provide a method for builders to submit requests for replacement parts when they determine it is needed.
We are dedicated to ensuring your confidence, comfort, and safety, and we appreciate your understanding as we work through this together.
Update: July 9, 2023
The team here at Van’s has been working this weekend to complete a comprehensive list of laser-cut parts and the classification/status of each. We appreciate your patience as we complete and verify the data prior to sharing it with builders. Once that process is completed, we will be communicating information directly to builders via email.
In addition, our team continues to conduct testing and evaluations of parts and materials. That work is ongoing and will be used to update the information in the potentially-affected parts list, as new information is received.
Finally, in the coming days we will be providing builders a method to report any issues with parts they have and to communicate their needs with Van’s.
Thank you, once again, for your patience and understanding as we work through these steps.
– Van’s Aircraft
Update from: July 4, 2023
In early 2022, Van’s began manufacturing some parts via partner contractors utilizing a fiber laser cutting process. This decision was made after completing a formal manufacturing process evaluation and extensive fatigue testing of materials used in the manufacturing process, with the purpose of increasing the production capacity for some parts during a period of high demand.
Van’s has recently received reports from builders that cracks have formed in some parts with laser-cut holes while dimpling, or while riveting the dimpled holes. We are acting on those reports and investing time, resources, and energy to address customer concerns and provide answers.
We appreciate your patience as we work through the various details of this issue. We will update our plans, and communicate such, as time goes on. The below update describes the current situation, as of today. We plan to publish an update with more information no later than this weekend.
A few things we want you to know:
- We will communicate over the next few business days with all customers whom our records indicate may have received laser-cut parts in their kits, based on kit shipment dates and the timeframes in which laser-cut parts were available to ship. That communication will describe the issues being reported on some parts and what we are doing about it.
- All parts that were manufactured starting in early 2022 utilizing the laser cutting process are now being produced on CNC punch press machines, as they were historically. We are no longer shipping any of those laser-cut parts. A smaller number of non-dimpled parts that have always been laser cut and have never been an issue are still being manufactured that way.
- Crated kits that were packed prior to the manufacturing change that are already at shipping facilities, etc. may contain laser-cut parts, and we will work with customers who receive those parts.
- Van’s will replace any laser-cut parts which are dimpled by the builder during the construction process, upon request, as soon as we are able to do so based on parts availability. Not all parts are in stock at this time, regardless of the availability status displayed on our online store. Our online store inventory status will be updated soon to reflect the removal of laser-cut part counts from our inventory. We will provide a schedule for the replacement process as we develop and confirm our plans for manufacturing the replacement parts.
- Van’s will do our best to provide replacement parts as soon as possible. Creating replacement parts will take time. We are prioritizing the manufacturing of replacement parts on our CNC punch presses, as well as providing tooling to partner punch press contractors. It will take a number of weeks before that tooling arrives and can be put to use. We will ramp up production as quickly as possible within the necessary constraints of tooling readiness and strict quality control.
- Quick Build kits are inspected at Van’s prior to shipping. Should any issues be observed by a customer, they should contact Van’s and we will work with them to assess and address concerns as needed. We will communicate directly with these customers regarding a process to follow, as well.
Additional testing and evaluation we are currently performing:
We are purposely conducting extensive tests of parts with holes containing cracks and notches, as cracks could be present in holes that make it into the field. Therefore, we need to understand the real-world impact: how and when cracks form, how and whether cracks may propagate, and what the actual results are of any propagation. Initial testing indicated that laser-cut parts had a lifespan very close to that of punched parts (and well beyond the expected necessary life span of an airplane). This additional testing is being conducted now by Van’s as well as by a contracted third-party testing partner. The results of these tests will provide additional valuable information, and will also serve in our review of prior test results.
Currently, the parts of greatest potential concern are the following laser-cut parts:
- Vertical stabilizer, rudder, and elevator spars on all RV-7, RV-8, RV-9, RV-10, and RV-14 empennage/tail kits;
- Horizontal stabilizer spars in RV-7/8 empennage kits;
- Some flap and aileron spars that were shipped early in the laser-cutting process, in RV-7, RV-8, RV-9, RV-10, and RV-14 kits
We encourage people to pause building of the above specific kits that include laser-cut empennage/tail, aileron, and flap spar parts. We will be replacing these components and providing further guidance. Even though testing of these specific parts is not yet complete, Van’s is erring on the side of caution by identifying those parts now and will recommend the replacement of these parts due to the relatively high loads carried by those specific parts. We will communicate directly with all affected customers concerning these parts via email this week, to inform those customers as to what steps should be taken. We are executing an initial run of replacement parts on our punch presses now and will be making additional production runs.
Our testing program for this issue is ongoing and focused on reviewing the various hole diameters and material thicknesses/types that were used to produce the laser-cut parts. These variables, as well as variations in manufacturing process parameters, can result in a marked difference in the potential for a crack to form in a given hole. We will prioritize testing and manufacturing of replacement parts based on these differences. We are also reviewing the metallurgy of the holes at the third-party test lab, in order to better understand the origin and cause of the observed cracks. From that, we will gain a greater understanding about these cracks and at what stages in the process they are formed (when cut, when dimpled, when riveted). We expect to receive those results soon, even before the full spectrum of overall testing is completed, and we will communicate that information when available.
Extensive fatigue testing is underway and will take some time to complete, due to the length of each test and the exhaustive number of tests being performed. Tests are being conducted at multiple locations, and it will take time to build a comprehensive sample size that will yield results with the highest level of confidence. Van’s and our contract test partner are working around the clock on this process.
We will publish a list of all affected parts later this week and will classify each part to indicate the current status of each based on test results. As test results are received we will update that list based on the results. This list and the associated status of each part will be used to determine the order in which we will produce replacement parts (higher-priority parts will be manufactured first). We will execute multiple smaller manufacturing runs of parts from the priority list, as compared to our typical large batch runs.
Please understand that the team at Van’s is hard at work on this and that our priority is making sure these issues are carefully, accurately, and thoughtfully reviewed and addressed. We will communicate new information as it becomes available. We understand that builders want and need answers as soon as possible, and we will provide updates to you as well as our teams internally as soon as we have information. Note that questions asked of our team before we have full information in hand will necessarily have to be answered with something similar to, “That information is pending, and we’re working hard to get it to you as soon as possible.” We hope you’ll understand that, and please know that we will communicate proactively as new information becomes available.
We are working for you to provide quality parts and service. We understand this is frustrating for affected customers and want you to know that we are here, we are listening, and we will work to make things right. Again, we plan to update you further over the next several days with new information, when we have it.