Complete machining solutions at component level are improving cost-efficiency for the aerospace industry. By Lim Gan Shu, Southeast Asia marketing manager, Walter AG
Although the topic is not new, it appears as a new item on the agenda on a daily basis: The demands made on manufacturers in the aviation and aerospace industry are becoming increasingly more demanding and complex. And what applies to production businesses, also applies to the machining industry that provides them with the tools they require.
In order to be more cost-efficient, manufacturers need to not only use tools that perform with a long tool life, but also continuously optimise their machining solutions and processes. In this area in particular, Walter provides support for its aerospace customers.
Creating Complete Solutions
The goal is to create complete solutions that address the complexity of the task and help to increase productivity and cost-efficiency.
“Today, customers expect their tool supplier to have a high level of expertise in all key operations that are carried out using its tools. This reduces the increasing cost pressure and compensates for the loss of expertise which arises as a result of outsourcing a large number of tasks.”, explained Thomas Schaarschmidt, director business and application development at Walter.
This means that, in addition to the tools required for the relevant machining solutions and the associated comprehensive service, suppliers also have a recycling and reconditioning program.
Technical support is provided, and simple order processing is integrated into the customer’s workflows. The supplier programs the machining systems (or helps the user’s staff to do so) and trains the customer’s employees, among other requirements that are neded.
Crucial Beneficial Effects
In addition, the tool specialist develops complete machining concepts, including all process steps which arise during the production of a component. These concepts are individually tailored to the customer’s needs and contain detailed recommendations regarding which tools are used in which step.
Mr Schaarschmidt said, “We have taken our customers’ list of requirements and developed it further. In other words, we have been systematically building on the comprehensive expertise that our customers need to take on the problems and challenges associated with the production of their components. We make this expertise and the discoveries which result for the production process available to our customers. We are thereby actively helping them to use our tools as efficiently, and as cost-effectively, as possible.”
First, Mr Schaarschmidt’s team defined specific components that are frequently used in the aerospace industry: Structural parts made from titanium aluminium alloys, for example, or engine and landing gear components. Complete machining solutions for these components are then developed in close collaboration with technology partners from the sector: Key customers, machinery and software manufacturers, suppliers, universities and research institutes.
“For every component for which we develop a machining solution together with the customer, we analyse the features and look at which and how many variations exist for each component. Then we map the entire process chain as it is implemented at the customer, in-house or at technology partners. This means that we know every detail that is relevant for machining the customer component,” said Mr Schaarschmidt.
In the next step, a roadmap is created that defines which steps are to be taken to the finished solution. The specialists identify what they can do where, which processes they have already mastered, where there is need for development and how this should be covered most effectively and in the quickest way possible.
The creation of machining concepts involves tool specialists who bring their expertise in machining turning, drilling, threading or milling using a wide range of different materials. The process also involves component experts who know which challenges associated with the manufacture of specific components need to be overcome.
To enable them to tailor their solutions as closely as possible to the specific requirements of the user, the company’s component managers visit their customers on a regular basis.
“Our component managers are deeply involved in the topic; they speak the language of our customers and know exactly where the problem areas lie,” explains Mr Schaarschmidt.
Their task is to keep up to date with what the users of the cutting tools are currently doing, and what optimisation measures or open topics they are looking at. They also gather feedback on recommended machining solutions.
A Competitive Advantage
The solutions that Mr Schaarschmidt’s team develops with customers have the purpose of creating competitive advantages for customers. It is therefore not uncommon for one machining concept to include hundreds of pieces of detailed information, machining steps or more. This includes numerous variant-specific machining solutions for every component.
Mr Schaarschmidt stated that his team’s goal is to offer a complete solution for 80 percent of the different variants of a component—all documented, partly standardised and accessible to specialists at all times.
The result: recommendations of which tools, machining parameters and processes can be used to produce a certain component with costs. This information is passed on to their customers via technology days together with technology partners, via roadshows, using training videos or animations on YouTube and, in the future—to deal with the trend in digitalisation—via the company’s homepage and augmented reality.
Knowledge about future products and requirements also flows into the development processes.Mr Schaarschmidt explains the benefits for customers:
“Forward-looking planning and development enables us to offer our customers a completely new type of machining solution, often right at the start of production of a new product, which is precisely tailored to them.
He adds that his team is able to support their customers with new component-specific cutting material solutions with immediately. Along with reduced start-up costs, the time between development and series production (time-to-market) is considerably accelerated and that this has a positive impact on cost-effectiveness.