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Scharmann Ecospeed HMC slashes machining times
Scharmann Ecospeed HMC slashes machining times
Scharmann Ecospeed HMC slashes machining times
Scharmann Ecospeed HMC slashes machining times

Scharmann Ecospeed HMC slashes machining times

Added to MTDCNC by Starrag UK Limited on 05 November 2014

The use of a Scharmann Ecospeed horizontal machining centre has enabled specialist aerospace supplier Magellan Aerospace (UK) Ltd to slash machining times of Airbus A350 aluminium wing ribs and fulfil the commitments it made to its customer – achieving a greater than 75 per cent saving in cycle time on one part.

Magellan’s Operations Manager, Adrian Young, explains that the company’s Llay (near Wrexham) site first investigated the potential of the Ecospeed when Magellan began comparing the economics – and effectiveness - of machined aluminium wing ribs against composite ribs.

'Our ‘new’ design of machined wing rib incorporates lots of pockets and we needed a machine that would be able to produce these most effectively,' he says. 'We knew about the Ecospeed’s ability to remove aluminium at 8,000 cm3/min, so made contact with Starrag UK. We wanted to compare the Ecospeed with other potential solutions for machining these high-value components that often start life as four-tonne billets but weigh just 140 kgs when finished machined.'

He continues: 'It was clear that the high-speed (feed rate up to 50,000 mm/min) Ecospeed and its sophisticated CNC system functionality, as well as the innovative Sprint Z3 machining head, was the machine for the job. When machining, the speed of change of direction and ramp up seemed to be the Achilles heel on the other machines we looked at, whilst the superior jerk functionality available via the Ecospeed’s Siemens 840D CNC meant there was no significant loss of speed and accuracy when pocketing.'

With a fixed-column, the Scharmann Ecospeed F2060 has a host of characteristics – not least the Sprint Z3 machining head - that clearly also made it the best-in-class solution for Magellan’s throughput of workpieces.

The Sprint Z3 machining head uses three parallel linear axes drives mounted radially equi-spaced in the headstock. The spindle platform is connected to each drive via rigid levers with pivots at each end and a ball joint at the other. Synchronised motion of the three Z axes allows the spindle to follow any path within a spherical cone of +/- 40deg at a maximum of 80deg/sec. Equal and simultaneous motion of all three axes results in a straight line movement of the spindle in Z; if the three axes move differentially, the spindle platform will be tilted in the A/B planes.

In addition, the Ecospeed boasts a 120 kW, 30,000 revs/min spindle, has X, Y and Z axis travels of 6,300 mm by 2,500 mm by 670 mm, respectively, plus +/- 40deg in A and B (1 sec/80 deg). It features a twin-pallet automatic changer (change time of 210 secs) for pallets of 2,000 mm by 6,000 mm and able to accommodate payloads (component and workholding) of 5,000 kgs and measuring up to 2,000 mm by 6,000 mm by 370 mm. A rack-type automatic toolchanger/magazine houses up to 129 tools and chip-to-chip time is 9 secs.

The machine also features process cooling by means of minimum quantity lubrication and mist extraction, in-process component probing, tool breakage control and a vacuum supply for component clamping (usual for wing rib work).

When Magellan tendered in 2008/9 for the A350 wing rib package, for ribs up to six metres long, the Ecospeed was at the forefront of Mr Young’s mind. 'Part cost is at the heart of every contract we tender for,' he continues. 'The contracts are usually based on fixed prices over a number of years (except for material costs), so it is essential we calculate the cost of each capital investment against realistic cycle times based on often very lengthy forward order forecasts. It’s a complicated ‘balancing’ act and, of course, it’s one we have to get right every time if we’re to stay in business!'

Stating that the investment with Starrag UK in the large capacity machine was in many ways a leap of faith for Magellan – 'though cushioned, of course, by some very good testimonials from existing users of the Ecospeed', adds Mr Young – especially as Magellan initially harboured doubts about the machine’s acceleration/deceleration capabilities over such extensive axis travels. However, any doubts were soon dispelled by the machine’s performance in this respect: 7.30 m/sec² in X, 9.81 m/sec² in Y and Z, and 685 deg/sec² in A and B.

'The machine has been working flat out - and excellently - for the past 12 months,' says Mr Young. 'Indeed, it has also attracted new work, including wing ribs for A380 and A320, as well as other Airbus parts, and it has been so successful that we have recently placed an order for a second, similarly-equipped Ecospeed F 2060 to meet this demand as well as to satisfy the plotted increase in A350 orders. Importantly, too, the second machine will also enable us to bring back in-house certain work that is currently outsourced.'

Magellan’s ongoing manufacturing success is based on a policy of continual improvement in every aspect of every operation, points out Mr Young who joined the company 12 years ago after periods in aeronautics, automotive and aerospace composites production. 'This is why we’re continually working with our machine suppliers like Starrag UK, with our aerospace clients’ designers and with our tooling suppliers.

'For example, on the A350 wing ribs, we’re currently investigating new tooling that takes deeper/closer-to-the-wall cuts, to leave just a single-pass finishing routine – to reduce cycle times further without jeopardising product quality.

'This follows the successful application of, for example, SumiDrill WDX drills from Sumitomo Electric Hardmetal, which have transformed drilling tasks on a range of spars. These drills are being run 60 per cent faster than the previous tooling and in one instance have produced 200 holes compared to just 10 when the previous drill suffered insert change/tool failure.'

Clever programming also plays a key role in fully utilising the Ecospeed’s capabilities in terms of wing rib machining, and while Mr Young is clearly a fan of the machine’s control system jerk functionality, he is also adamant that Magellan leaves no stone unturned in utilising the best programming skills available to improve machining routines and cycle times – courtesy of his in-house programmers, via Starrag UK’s technical team or through the use of expert ‘freelancers’.

'Whilst we have been growing successfully for a number of years in a very competitive market, we face a global competitor base and, of course, we have to remain profitable,' he says. 'These are perennial drivers for improvement and they keep me focused on achieving a forward, progressive strategy.'

The company also has sites in Blackpool (for hard metal component work up to 1 m3), Bournemouth (aluminium parts up to 2,000 mm3), Chalfont, Bucks (aluminium components up to 500 m3) and at Greyabbey in Northern Ireland (wing ribs up to 4 m). In addition to the Scharmann Ecospeed, Magellan Aerospace utilises a range of Starrag Group brand machines on various sites – Starrag, Heckert and Droop + Rein.

Magellan Aerospace (UK) Ltd is owned by Magellan Corporation, a global aerospace company with operations throughout North America, Europe and India.

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