Slashing cycle times in aerospace machining
- August 3, 2014
The Problem: 7-hour machining cycle time for aerospace part
The Solution: Five axis machine with linear drives to cut cycle time to 2.5 hours
An aerospace parts manufacturer slashes machining time by more than half with new five axis machine
Cyclone Manufacturing is a busy company. The Mississauga, ON, aerospace parts manufacturer has been bringing in $10 million of new orders annually for the last four years. Since 2009, annual sales growth has averaged 20 per cent. And by the end of this year, the company expects to close in on $65 million in sales.
Eighteen months ago, Cyclone opened its fourth manufacturing operation in Mississauga, a 60,000 sq ft plant representing a $20 million investment in building and machinery purchases.
"We're applying with the city to get permits and financing to expand the facility again," says Robert Sochaj, who runs the company with his father Andrew.
One of the products being machined in the new plant is an aluminum winglet component for a major aerospace OEM. The part was being machined on a five axis multi-tasking machine.
"We knew the machining process was not as productive as it could be, but we were very busy with new orders and didn't have the time to focus on improving productivity on that part."
So when Nicholas Piccione, area sales manager for DMG MORI ELLISON, approached Cyclone last year with a turnkey solution to help improve productivity at the plant, "I thought of this part because we were machining about 100 parts per month and it was taking us about seven hours per part using the capacity of one and a half machines," recalls Sochaj.
A challenging part to machine
The winglet component is a classic aluminum aerospace part: a complex geometry that requires a high volume of metal removal, multiple, tight tolerance holes and multiple cutting processes, such as milling, reaming and drilling.
Piccione knew DMG MORI's DMU eVo linear machine was a good choice, but he also knew the machine alone wouldn't improve machining cycle times. The complexity of the part would require CAM software that could handle the programming, and tooling and workholding that could handle the machining speeds and meet the tight part tolerances.
A team approach
Piccione's turnkey solution was to bring in Delcam for its PowerMILL CAM software, and Seco, for its EPB toolholders, Jabro end mills and Aeromaster roughing tools. The turnkey solution also included Lang workholding fixtures supplied by Machine Tool Solutions.
"This collaboration with different suppliers is a first for us," says Sochaj. "This machine will be used 80 per cent of the time and we're not likely to machine anything else on it in the short term because the suppliers spent a lot of time in setting up the machine especially for this part and we don't want to adjust lengths, holding systems or the tooling system because it works so well now for this part."
"I called it a turnkey solution because Cyclone didn't have to do anything," adds Piccione. "We looked at every aspect of how to machine the part and implemented the process."
The installation took place in February of this year and since then the machine has been running smoothly.
"We're on the same page when it comes to the turnkey concept," says Mark Sully, Delcam's account manager for Central Ontario. "The customer's process is only as good as its weakest link, so a high end machine with a weak tool or poor software won't perform well."
Slashing cycle times, saving costs
Cyclone's target for its aerospace component was simple: improve productivity and reduce costs. And the turnkey solution its suppliers provided did just that. The DMG MORI machine equipped with linear drives, glass scales and an Erowa robot loader, combined with the Delcam PowerMILL CAM software, Seco shrinkfit tools and Lang workholding, has resulted in significant annual cost savings.
Not only did Cyclone reduce its machining cycle times by more than half from 7 hours down to 2.5 hours, it rationalized the number of cutting tools required from approximately 30 down to 11 simply be redesigning workholding fixtures and reconfiguring the cutting tool approach, so that holes could be drilled on both sides of the part instead of just one side, as the company had been doing on another machine.
Cyclone was also able to eliminate a polishing step because of the high quality finish and incorporate pre-process operations, such as chamfering, into the machining process on the DMG MORI machine.
One key to achieving the savings was the CAM software, Delcam's PowerMILL. The software's simulation and collision detection/avoidance functions helped identify potential problems and how to rectify them. For example, the simulation software helped the suppliers to reconfigure how the part was held in the machine. Originally, to hold the part securely in the machine, Cyclone extended the width at each end of the part. The suppliers redesigned it and removed 38 mm (1.5 in.) on each side and with the new Lang workholding, there were able to secure the part and hold it rigid during high speed machining.
The software also enabled faster toolpath programming, says Sochaj.
He adds that Cyclone purchased the Delcam software "because many people recommended it, including Nicholas and we took his opinion very seriously. We also liked that post processing was included in the price of the software and that we were able to deal directly with Delcam and not a middleman."
Of course, the program is only as good as the machine that runs it and the tooling that machines the part.
"The eVo 80 is the only machine of its kind in the shop that has linear drives and no ball screws. It reads right off the glass scale for higher accuracy and temperature control to adjust for the machining environment. There is lots of technology built into the machine that's designed for high speed and for accuracy," says Piccione.
Equally important to Cyclone's success with the new machine was the tooling. Mitch Hamilton, aerospace applications engineer with Seco Tools, selected cutting tools and toolholders based on key criteria.
"Symmetrical, balanced tools are required for high performance machining of aluminum. Shrinkfit tools are also required, with as little run out and imbalance as possible."
For example, Seco's EPB toolholders are balanced to 1.5G at 20,000 rpm and have less than three microns of run out. "This minimizes static and dynamic run out," says Hamilton.
For his part, Sochaj says he and his father are happy with the outcome of the turnkey operation.
"We saved a lot of money and we've freed up capacity on other machines we were using for this winglet part and can now machine other parts." SMT