Steve Bell of Renishaw Singapore discusses the additive manufacturing trend for aerospace parts, and the journey towards Industry 4.0. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
At the recent Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific (ITAP) 2019 event in Singapore, Renishaw (Singapore) Pte Ltd showcased an end-to-end solution involving the production of aerospace blades and its assembly into a blisk. From additive manufacturing, where the aerospace blades were manufactured (Station 1) though metal 3D printing; to the calibration station, which featured Renishaw’s XL80 and XK10 calibration products, designed to make sure that machining processes are as accurate as they can be; to Station 3, which featured a machine tool showing some of Renishaw’s probing technologies, particularly SupaScan, which is a method of using a scanning probe on a machine tool to gather data quickly, and enables set up of a part very accurately. Alongside the machine tool is the Equator gauging system, which makes sure that parts being finished on the machine tool stay within tolerance. Finally, Station 4 showcases the final assembly of the blades into a blisk, which is being inspected on a CMM using a REVO 5-axis scanning technology.
“Basically, we’re looking at a complete, end-to-end story of the part,” says Steve Bell, general manager for ASEAN at Renishaw Singapore. “All of that supplemented by Renishaw Central, a software product that allows you to gather data from the complete mix of Renishaw equipment; and from there, to use the data to make intelligent decisions about your manufacturing processes.
According to Bell, it is the first time for company to attend ITAP. “We heard good things about last year’s ITAP event, so we decided to take part this year,” he says. “What we are seeing is that it is very much focused on automation, smart factory, Industry 4.0—these are all things that are of interest to us as a company. Industry 4.0 is all about connectivity of your equipment, getting useful information from the equipment, and then using that information to make sensible decisions about how you continue your manufacturing process. And all of that is very much what Renishaw is about.”
Growing Aerospace Industry
The aerospace industry in Singapore is a growing market, according to Bell. “It is very much an industry niche within Singapore,” he says.
The challenge, though, is the accuracy, the need for conformity of parts, and the need to reach the approval levels that are essential within the industry.
“The tolerances are constantly getting tighter, so, people are looking for improvements in performance, they are looking for faster, more consistent ways to manufacture parts,” he notes. “These areas are where we think we have a lot to contribute.”
An evolution in the manufacture of aerospace parts is taking place, especially with the emergence of 3D printing. In fact, the blades showcased here by Renishaw feature a hollow lattice-structured central section. “The aim is to make the blades strong, but also as light as possible,” says Bell.
Journey to Industry 4.0
ITAP covers the full gamut of industry—from top level factory management systems, all the way down to shop floor tooling.
“Industry 4.0 is meant to bring all of the diverse parts together, to bring the data on to one single platform where decisions can be made,” says Bell. “So, I think, an exhibition that reflects that, with a focus on Industry 4.0, makes a lot of sense to us.”
According to Bell, people have been talking a lot about Industry 4.0, “but the first signs of real implementation are just beginning to be seen,” he says. The picture across Southeast Asia is quite mixed. While some markets are moving rapidly to Industry 4.0, for others, it is going to take longer toward smart factory implementation.
“I look after Southeast Asia. In Singapore, a lot of the heavy lifting has been done by the Singapore government, so they are pushing the SMEs towards an understanding of Industry 4.0, and hopefully, also implementation. From our point of view as a company, our first requirement is to make sure that our own equipment can be integrated into central systems ; we need to have all the hooks in place so that the data from our equipment can be ported into other factory management systems. That’s exactly what we are trying to showcase at this exhibition.”
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