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Starrag’s four-machine fms will allow aerospace specialist to cost-effectively meet rising demand

A major supplier of aerospace parts in Italy is depending on a Starrag-developed flexible manufacturing system (FMS) to deliver exceptional machining rewards and reduced piece part costs when it commissions a four-machine, minimally-manned automated solution which will operate around-the-clock to meet rising demand for certain aero-engine components.

Based on a quartet of Heckert HEC 500 X5 multi-axis machining centres, each featuring a five-axis trunnion-type table, the FMS will be served by an integrated pallet system and a centralised tool storage facility that will house an amazing 2,000 tools to cover all eventualities in the single set-up, multi-task machining of the family of parts.

In addition to highly-efficient cutting and cycle times, the Heckert machining centres will also ensure consistently high-accurate cutting – to within two/three microns – of the titanium and high alloy steel workpieces which range in size up to 500 mm by 500 mm.

Such demanding requirements do not, however, daunt Starrag which has more than 40 years’ experience in delivering FMS of all sizes as turnkey solutions to minimise floor-to-floor times as well as to reduce component costs.

These systems may contain varying Starrag Group machines plus the integrated technologies of, for example, workpiece handling/holding and transport (for instance, robots, bespoke fixturing, pallet systems and automatic rail-guided as well as autonomous vehicles), cell control (including Starrag’s Integrated Production System and Industrie 4.0 philosophies), tool storage systems (chain and tower) as well as complementary processes such as grinding, deburring, component cleaning and finish inspection.

Collectively, the key benefits of Starrag’s unrivalled expertise in developing FMS solutions are:

  • Reduced unit costs thanks to fully-automated, yet flexible complete machining with less manpower
  • Customised solutions for batch sizes from one-offs to large quantities
  • Production based on demand with low levels of material inventory
  • Guaranteed highly effective, just-in-time production
  • Unmanned machining in multiple-shift environments
  • Reduced production and throughput times while maintaining high-level processing quality
  • Optimum conditions for system extension/integration of additional machines
  • Interlinking of a variety of machine designs as well as auxiliary operations such as inspection, engraving and deburring stations

This latest FMS for the Italian aerospace customer started, like all Starrag machining solutions, with Starrag meeting the needs of the customer and the components rather than with a machine sale (the HEC 500 X5 was, however, compared by the customer to similar, competitor models). Starrag’s investigations led to the development of an all-embracing solution that is specific to these aero-engine workpieces, reflecting Starrag’s quest to continue to be the customer’s ‘application champion’ based on its strategy of ‘Engineering precisely what you value’.

In this case, the HEC 500 X5 machining centre was the optimum choice in terms of specification and performance. Not only does the machine’s X, Y, Z axes envelope of 1,000 mm by 800 mm by 1,000 mm and 800 kgs capacity 500 mm by 500 mm pallets meet all workpiece size demands, but the up to 82 kW/1,500 Nm/15,000 revs/min/65 m/min rapid traverse rate spindle also provides the required power and cycle, traversing and machining time speeds. Additionally, the machine’s B (rotational) axis can rotate 360deg at 80 revs/min while the A (swivel) axis operates at -45deg to +91deg at 15 revs/min to further enhance the machine’s multi-axis capabilities.

However, it is the machine’s high-rigidity build values that are especially important in meeting the demanded micron machining accuracies for the very tough workpiece materials.

For instance, the machine’s extremely high levels of accuracy – positioning accuracy is just 0.006 mm – also depend on rail guides in all axes with pre-loaded guiding carriages and pre-loaded ballscrew drives with counter bearings. Additionally, the NC rotary table has an input resolution of 0.001deg.

Such values are also courtesy of rigid build qualities that include excellent damping characteristics of the machine bed (mineral cast for superb temperature-stability and vibration-resistant characteristics), column, table and rotary swivelling units, as well as even for the tool and collet chucks.

Everything plays a part in enabling the FMS to consistently achieve micron-accurate machining.

One of a new generation of Heckert machining centres that utilise ‘every technical advancement in the book’ to be affordable yet high-performance – including digital AC drives – the HEC 500 X5 also boasts pallet change times down to 12.5 secs.

Energy efficiency is another aspect of the machine, with users gaining reduced operating costs by, for example:

  • Energy recovery when drives are braking
  • High efficiency direct drive of motor spindle and NC rotary table
  • Warm-up program and stand-by mode.

The result is a machine with an unmatched cost to performance reputation for reducing component costs. And it’s a reputation that can only be enhanced by its integration into an FMS.