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Thai Airways To Move Ahead With MRO Project Despite Airbus Dropout

Thai Airways To Move Ahead With MRO Project Despite Airbus Dropout

With the worsening worldwide pandemic, European planemaker, Airbus, has decided to pull out of the joint venture with Thai Airways International to develop a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility at Rayong’s U-Tapao Airport. However, Thai Airways has announced that it will press ahead with the project, either on its own or with a new partner.

This 11-billion-baht MRO facility was part of the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) mega-investment project to promote Thailand as an aviation and MRO hub in the region. The planned MRO hub would feature the latest digital technologies and was set for completion in 2022-2023.

Unfortunately, with global air traffic practically brought to a standstill, Airbus has been hit hard by the crisis and will be dropping out of the project investment—although the company will still cooperate on technology.

Thai Airways remains hopeful as there is time to find a new partner with construction still in its early stages and that Airbus or Boeing would come back in after the pandemic eases.


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Rolls-Royce Establishes Covid-19 Data Alliance To Kickstart Businesses And Economy Recovery

Rolls-Royce Establishes Covid-19 Data Alliance To Kickstart Businesses And Economy Recovery

Rolls-Royce has invited a group of leading companies to collaborate on Emer2gent, a new alliance of data analytics experts challenged with finding new, faster ways of supporting businesses and governments globally as they recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Early alliance members are Leeds Institute for Data Analytics, IBM, Google Cloud, The Data City, Truata, Rolls-Royce and ODI Leeds. The alliance will be facilitated and co-ordinated by innovation specialists, Whitespace.

Together the initial wave of members brings all the key elements of open innovation; data publication, licensing, privacy, security; data analytics capability; and collaborative infrastructure, to kick off its early work and grow its membership.

Emer2gent will combine traditional economic, business, travel and retail data sets with behaviour and sentiment data, to provide new insights into – and practical applications to support – the global recovery from COVID-19. This work will be done with a sharp focus on privacy and security, using industry best practices for data sharing and robust governance.

Emer2gent models will help get people and businesses back to work as soon as possible by identifying lead indicators of economic recovery cycles. Businesses, both small and large, around the world, as well as governments, can use these insights to build the confidence they need to take early decisions, such as investments or policies, that could shorten or limit the recessionary impacts from the pandemic.

“We want the global economy to get better as soon as possible so people can get back to work. Our data innovation community can help do this and is at its best when it comes together for the common good,” said Caroline Gorski, Global Director, R2 Data Labs, the Rolls-Royce data innovation catalyst which started the alliance

“People, businesses and governments around the world have changed the way they spend, move, communicate and travel because of COVID-19 and we can use that insight, along with other data, to provide the basis for identifying what new insights and trends may emerge that signify the world’s adjustment to a ‘new normal’ after the pandemic, ” she continued.


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Machining For The Aerospace Industry

Machining for the Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry is one of the most important driving factors for cutting tool development. Here are the recent tool developments to address the challenges in aerospace parts manufacturing. Article by Andrei Petrilin, ISCAR.

The aerospace industry is not only one of the largest consumers of cutting tools but also one of the most important driving factors for cutting tool development. The aerospace industry features continuous efforts aimed at improving aircraft component manufacturing efficiency, increasing flight safety, and reducing potential environmental damage.

To achieve these goals, the aerospace industry must constantly improve the design of aircraft engines and airframe structural elements, to increase the protection of the aircraft from the damaging action of such dangerous factors as lightening and icing. This, in turn, has resulted in a series of  industry demands, including the introduction of engineering materials that require new production technologies, developing appropriate machinery and cutting tools. The aircraft manufacturer has to deal with complex parts, which are produced from various materials with the use of different machining strategies. This is why the aerospace industry is considered as a powerful and leading force for progress in cutting tool development.

Many materials used for manufacturing aircraft components have poor machinability. Titanium with its impressive strength-to-weight ratio, high-temperature superalloys (HTSA) that do not lose their strength under high thermal load, and composites, are difficult-to-cut materials. In order to increase output rate and improve productivity, aerospace component manufacturers must use machine tools capable of implementing advanced machining operations. In such conditions, the role of cutting tools is significantly increased; however, cutting tools can represent the weakest link in the whole manufacturing system due to their low durability as a system element, which can decrease productivity. Customers from the aerospace sector expect higher levels of performance and reliability from cutting tools. Tool manufacturers now are being challenged and inspired, in terms of developing and integrating sometimes unconventional solutions into their products, to meet these expectations.

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Basic Materials

Figure 2: ISCAR’s F3S chipformer was designed specifically for finish turning high-temperature nickel-based alloys and exotic materials.

Most cutting tools continue to be manufactured from cemented carbide. Over recent years, ISCAR has introduced several carbide grades designed specifically for aerospace materials, including
IC 5820. The grade combines the advantages of a new submicron substrate, a progressive hard CVD coating, and a post-coating treatment to substantially increase impact strength and heat resistance. The inserts from this grade are intended mostly for milling titanium. Pinpointed wet cooling and especially high-pressure coolant (HPC) significantly improve grade performance.

Ceramics, another tool material, possess considerably higher hot hardness and chemical inertness than cemented carbides. This means that ceramics ensure much greater cutting speeds and eliminate diffusion wear. One of ISCAR’s recent developments, a family of solid ceramic endmills, is intended for machining HTSA. These endmills are made from SiAlON, a type of silicon-nitride-based ceramic comprising silicon (Si), aluminium (Al), oxygen (O) and nitrogen (N). When compared with solid carbide tools, these endmills enable up to 50 times increase in cutting speed, which can drastically save machining hours.

For turning applications, the company expanded its line of indexable SiAlON inserts for machining HTSA materials. The new products (Figure 1) have already proven their effectiveness in turning aero engine parts from super alloys such as Waspaloy and different Inconel and Rene grades. In contrast to other silicon nitride ceramics, SiAlON possesses higher oxidation resistance but less toughness. Therefore, a key of a SiAlON insert reliability is additional edge preparation. ISCAR’s new TE edge geometry has been developed to increase tool life in heavy load conditions during rough operations and interrupted cuts.

Advanced Geometry

Figure 3: The recently launched modular drills for multi-spindle and Swiss-type machines combine the SUMOCHAM design with a FLEXFIT threaded connection.

Improving a cutting geometry is an important direction in the development of cutting tools. Cutting geometry is a subject of theoretical and experimental researches, and advances in science and technology have brought a new powerful instrument to aid in tool design: 3D computer modelling of chip formation. ISCAR’s R&D team actively uses modelling to find optimal cutting geometries and form the rake face of indexable inserts and exchangeable heads.

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The F3S chipformer for the most popular ISO inserts, such as CNMG, WNMG and SNMG, was designed specifically for finish turning high-temperature nickel-based alloys and exotic materials (Figure 2). It ensures a smooth and easy cut with notable chip breaking results. The remarkable working capability of the designed cutting geometry is a direct result of chip flow modelling.

In hole making, applying modelling to the design process significantly contributed to creating a chip splitting geometry of SUMOCHAM exchangeable carbide heads for drilling holes with depth up to 12-hole diameters in hard-to-cut austenitic and duplex stainless steel.

Flexible Customisation

Figure 4: The need to increase productivity and boost metal removal rates for milling aluminium workpieces, especially large parts of aerospace structural components, has led machine tool builders to develop milling machines with a powerful main drive—up to 150 kW—with high spindle speeds of up to 33,000 rpm.

Aerospace products can vary immensely in material, dimensions, shape , complexity, and more. To make such a diverse range of products, the product manufacturer needs dozens of machine tools and technological processes. Not every standard cutting tool is optimal for performing certain machining operations with maximum productivity and, consequently, the aerospace industry is a leading consumer of customized tools.

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A customer producing titanium parts might be interested in solutions comprising indexable shell mills and arbors from the standard line; while another customer producing similar parts might prefer special milling cutters with an integral body, for direct mounting in a machine spindle.

ISCAR developed the  MULTI-MASTER and SUMOCHAM families of rotating tools with exchangeable heads and different body configurations to ensure various tool assembly options that simplify customization and decrease the need for costly tailormade products.

A further example of simplified customisation can be found in ISCAR’s recently-launched modular drills for multi-spindle and Swiss-type machines. The drills combine the SUMOCHAM design with a FLEXFIT threaded connection (Figure 3). Multi-spindle and Swiss-type machines typically have a limited space for tooling, which means that the tools in operation need to be as short as possible to avoid collisions and facilitate easy set up. A wide range of FLEXFIT threaded adaptors and flatted shanks has been designed precisely to fit the drills and maximally shorten an overhang.

Responding to demands from the aerospace sector, the company also expanded the MULTI-MASTER family by introducing a new thread connection to increase the diameter range for the exchangeable endmill heads to 32 mm (1.25″).

Aluminium Machining

Although machining aluminium might appear to be an extremely simple process, effective cutting of aluminium actually represents a whole field of technology with its own laws and challenges.

The need to increase productivity and boost metal removal rates for milling aluminium workpieces, especially large parts of aerospace structural components, has led machine tool builders to develop milling machines with a powerful main drive—up to 150 kW—with high spindle speeds of up to 33,000 rpm. To meet this demand, ISCAR has expanded its family of 90° indexable milling cutters by introducing new tools carrying large-size inserts that enable up to 22 mm (.870″) depth of cut (Figure 4). The tools have been designed to eliminate insert radial displacement, which might occur due to high centrifugal forces during very high rotational speed. This concept facilitates reliable milling in a rotational speed range of up to 31,000 rpm.

In hole making, the company developed new inserts for drilling aluminium with indexable drills from the DR-TWIST drilling tool range. The inserts are peripherally ground and feature sharp cutting edges and polished rake face for light cut, preventing adhesion.

ISCAR’s cutting tool program for the aerospace sector is based on several principles: the complex needs of this industry, taking into consideration trends in metalworking, and the drive to strengthen partnerships with tool consumers. ISCAR believes that such a tri-pronged approach ensures the successful realization of innovative ideas for efficient machining of the difficult-to-cut materials that characterize this challenging and dynamic field.


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Frost & Sullivan Names Top Innovators In The Global Commercial Aircraft MRO Market

Frost & Sullivan Names Top Innovators In The Global Commercial Aircraft MRO Market

Frost & Sullivan reveals that the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) market experienced substantial growth in line with global fleet expansion. As the market worth $75 billion continues to increase for aircraft maintenance, MROs are adjusting capacity to meet the surging demand through the adoption of digital transformation, technology innovation, and unrivaled efficiencies as well as mergers, consolidations, buy-outs and alliances. Airlines are spinning their maintenance divisions off into separate MRO entities to produce fresh revenue streams as OEMs jockey for additional market share.

The recently released Commercial Aircraft Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul Market Frost Radar provides results from an in-depth analysis built on a 360-degree research methodology where over 100 companies in the MRO industry were evaluated. The team of industry analysts identified 17 industry leaders excelling at innovation, poised for growth and ripe for investment, and recognises them in the Frost Radar with insight into their innovative offerings, projected growth rates, strengths and opportunities for the future.

The following companies were identified for demonstrated excellence in either growth, innovation, or both, with the ability to translate these qualities into proven solutions that benefit their clients: AAR Corp, Aeroman, AFI KLM E&M, Aviation Technical Services, Etihad Airways Engineering, Evergreen Aviation Technologies Corp. (EGAT), Flightstar, GAMECO, GMF AeroAsia, HAECO, Lufthansa Technik, Mexicana MRO, Sabena Technics, SR Technics, ST Engineering, TAP M&E, and Turkish Technic.


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Growth Of The Digital Twins Market Is Driven By Industrial Digitalisation

Growth Of The Digital Twins Market Is Driven By Industrial Digitalisation

According to Tractica, global revenue for digital twins will increase to $9.4 billion in 2025, up from $2.4 billion in 2018. A digital twin is a digital representation that provides the elements and dynamics of how a device or ecosystem operates and lives throughout its life cycle. Digital twins are useful for simulating the capabilities of machine tools in a safe and cost-effective way, as well as identifying the root causes of problems occurring in physical tools or infrastructure.

The digitisation of nearly every industry type is helping to fuel the demand for twinning platforms, as is the desire to monitor, control, and model the future behaviour of real-world equipment, systems, and environments. Manufacturing, aerospace, connected vehicles, smart cities, retail, healthcare, and industrial IoT are key sectors for digital twins market adoption. Asia Pacific is one of the largest geographic regions for digital twins, forecasted to generate $11.2 billion in cumulative revenue.

“Like any technology, digital twins must be understood and accepted by several different stakeholders, from the operations workers up to the C-suite,” said Principal Analyst Keith Kirkpatrick.

“Vendors are highlighting their expertise in analytics and demonstrating domain expertise with specific industry verticals. Some are also spotlighting their experience with incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, which can provide the ability to model future behaviour via digital twins. These technologies are anticipated to drive the functionality of digital twins beyond simply being enhanced analytics tools,” he added.


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Growth Of Malaysia’s Aerospace Industry

Growth Of Malaysia’s Aerospace Industry

Malaysia’s government has identified the aerospace industry as one of its new growth industries and aims to be the leading aerospace nation by 2030, with a targeted annual revenue of RM55.2 (US$13.5) billion. In 2017, the industry has recorded a total revenue of RM 13.5 (US$3.3) billion and aerospace manufacturing contributed to 48 percent of the revenue.

“The aim is to shift Malaysia’s economy from labour intensive to high value added, knowledge and innovation based economic activities with a focus on the services and manufacturing sectors,” said Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Darell Leiking

Many multinational companies have invested and established facilities in the country over the years which has also encouraged growth if the local supply chain. Furthermore, Airbus and Boeing will be delivering an estimated of 16,000 aircrafts to the Asia Pacific region by 2037. With this increased supply of aircrafts, greater support for aerospace manufacturing and MRO activities will be needed.

“The positive development has also spurred the government to view the aerospace industry as a critical sector which offers abundant opportunities for the transfer of advanced technologies in engineering, electronics, composite materials, system integration, MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) and industry-led Research & Technology,” said Darell.


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Bombardier Invests S$85 Million To Expand Singapore Service Centre

Bombardier Invests S$85 Million To Expand Singapore Service Centre

Canadian aerospace firm Bombardier is investing in S$85 million to quadruple the size of its Singapore aircraft maintenance centre to 40,000 square metres by 2020. This is part of its efforts to enhance its position in the Asia-Pacific region and cater to its growing customer base in Asia.

“This expansion is another key building block in our drive to enhance the accessibility of our OEM expertise for customers worldwide and to solidify our position as a leader in aftermarket services in the Asia-Pacific region, a pivotal growing part of our global network,” said Jean-Christophe Gallagher, Bombardier VP and GM for customer experience.

The expanded centre will offer a range of maintenance, refurbishment and modification services and will support more than 2,000 visits a year. The centre also features a 3,500 square metre paint facility, heavy structural and composite repair capabilities and an integrated parts depot. The expansion will see an increase of employment at the service centre from the current 150 workers to 300 by 2020 which would provide an important economic engine to Singapore’s aerospace sector. Furthermore, Lynn McDonald Canadian High Commissioner to Singapore said that Bombardier’s partnerships with educational institutes would ensure creation of “highly skilled, high-paying aerospace jobs for years to come”.

“Bombardier’s expansion in Singapore is testament to our attractiveness as an aerospace hub, and our ability to capture growth opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Tan Kong Hwee, executive director for capital goods at the Singapore Economic Development Board. “We look forward to forging stronger ties with companies like Bombardier to grow the sector and create more good jobs for Singaporeans,” he added.

Currently, Singapore’s aerospace sector employs more than 20,000 people and is home to more than 130 aerospace companies. Singapore is responsible for more than 25 percent of Asia’s maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) market and 10 percent of the global MRO market.


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MASI Soars With Hypertherm’s X-Definition Plasma System

MASI Soars With Hypertherm’s X-Definition Plasma System

Air travel has come a long way since the days of the Wright Brothers. Raising standards for aviation safety is a paramount concern globally with more than 100,000 flights taking to the sky daily, and proper servicing and maintenance play a critical role in ensuring the safety of crew and passengers. One such company that makes certain proper servicing equipment and maintenance facility on aircrafts can be carried out smoothly is Muhibbah Airline Support Industries Sdn. Bhd. (MASI).

Headquartered in Selangor, Malaysia, MASI manufactures a variety of products for the aviation services sector, including maintenance docking systems, aerobridges, and aircraft parking guidance systems. A subsidiary of Muhibbah Engineering (M) Bhd., the first company in Malaysia to achieve ISO 9002 certification in the construction sector, MASI places strong emphasis on quality and safety in every aspect of its operations.

A Versatile And Efficient Solution For Quality Production

MASI’s strength lies in the design and construction of a full range of aircraft maintenance docking systems. These systems are specialised platforms positioned around the aircraft to allow maintenance personnel to access all areas of an aircraft, providing an efficient and safe working environment. An effective aircraft maintenance docking system enables the maintenance team to perform their jobs better, which then assures people of aircraft functions and safety.

The team at MASI had a good grasp of the aviation industry’s needs, and its innovative systems featured state-of-the art functions. To bring them to fruition, the company found the need to invest in a cutting technology that is capable of producing high-quality cut parts at fast speeds, yet require little or no post-production processes. The company decided on Hypertherm’s X-definition plasma cutting system, the XPR300, which would allow them to boost production processes significantly without compromising on quality.

The XPR300 features the latest X-Definition plasma technology which improves its ability to tackle high-precision applications, surpassing the expectations of modern plasma cutting systems to produce high-quality cuts in the most cost-efficient manner on a myriad of metal types and thicknesses. In addition, the system boasts of Hypertherm’s True Hole technology that provides MASI with the ability to easily fabricate bolt ready holes down to a diameter-to-thickness ratio of 1:1. These advanced features of the XPR300 system addressed MASI’s requirements of a cutting solution that could handle a variety of plate thickness (ranging from 4 mm to 40 mm) and various types of shape and hole cutting, leading to improved consumable life, and reduction in production times and wastage in materials. This has allowed MASI to register between 10 to 20 percent in cost-savings – depending on material thickness.

Apart from the cutting-edge features on the XPR300, MASI was also won over by Hypertherm’s high level of service standards. From the early stages of decision-making through to after-sales assistance, the Hypertherm team offered timely response and their full support to address MASI’s every concern. Edward Wong, Technical Manager at MASI, shared, “The XPR300 system has proven to be stable and reliable so far – allowing us to improve our productivity and quality, and we expect that it will also eventually help us to reduce the manpower required in the production of parts for the various systems and equipment.”

The Future Of MASI And Hypertherm

On MASI’s plans to further improve their processes, Mr. Wong added that the company is looking to purchase more cutting machines, and also plans to explore more advanced solutions such as robotic plasma beam cutting lines. “Judging from the results we’ve seen so far, we’re optimistic that Hypertherm’s advanced cutting solutions will support our endeavour to improve the agility and profitability of our business. We also look forward to satisfying our customers with consistent and quality products that will allow their maintenance teams to perform their tasks well and ensure safe functioning of aircrafts,” added Mr. Wong.


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Jet Engine Part Production—An Aerospace Industry Challenge

The requirements for materials used in jet engine parts are necessarily very exacting. They must survive extremes of temperature and force, while being as light as possible and ultra-reliable. Contributed by Iscar

Image Source: Iscar

A turbojet engine can be divided simply into three sections – the compressor, the combustor and the turbine. The compressor pressurises the air flowing through the engine before it enters the combustion chamber, where the air is mixed with fuel, ignited and burnt. The compressor components are predominantly made from titanium alloys, while the combustor and turbine components are typically made of a nickel-based superalloy such as Inconel 718.

Nickel-Based Alloys

The excellent physical properties that characterise nickel-based high temperature alloys make them ideal for use in the manufacture of aerospace components.

Properties such as high yield strength and ultimate tensile strength, high fatigue strength, corrosion and oxidation resistance even at elevated temperatures enable the usage of nickel-based high temperature alloys in many applications and over a very wide temperature spectrum.

The aerospace industry accounts for about 80 percent of the nickel-based high temperature alloys used in manufacturing rotating parts of gas turbines, including  disks and blades, housing components such as turbine casing, engine mounts, and components for rocket motors and pumps.

Nickel-based high temperature alloys contain 35-75 percent Ni and 15-22 percent Cr; they constitute about 30 percent of the total material requirement in the manufacture of an aircraft engine and are also used as structural material for various components in the main engine of space shuttles.

The very same properties that make nickel-based alloys such a great choice for jet engine parts also cause substantial machining difficulties.

The cutting forces and temperature at the cutting zone are extremely high due to the high shear stresses developed and the low thermal conductivity. This, coupled with the reactivity of nickel-based high temperature alloys with the tool material, leads to galling and welding of the chips on the work piece surface and cause excessive tool wear, which can limit cutting speeds and reduce useful tool life.

All these characteristics contribute to low material removal rates and short tool life, resulting in massive machining costs.

Titanium-Based Alloys

Due to their high strength to weight ratio and excellent corrosion resistance, titanium alloy parts are ideally suited for advanced aerospace systems. Titanium-based alloys which contain 86-99.5 percent Ti and 5-8 percent Al, are immune to almost every medium to which they would be exposed in an aerospace environment.

Image Source: Iscar

Very large quantities of titanium can be found in jet engines, where titanium alloy parts make up to 25-30 percent of the weight, primarily in the compressor. The high efficiency of these engines is obtained by using titanium alloys in components such as fan blades, compressor blades, rotors, discs, hubs, and other non-rotor parts—for instance inlet guide vanes.

Titanium’s superior properties and light weight allow aeronautical engineers to design planes that can fly higher and faster, with high resistance to extreme environmental conditions. However, titanium has historically been perceived as a material which is difficult to machine due to its physical, chemical and mechanical properties.

The material’s relatively high temperature resistance and low thermal conductivity do not allow generated heat to dissipate from the cutting tool, which causes excessive tool deformation and wear. Titanium alloys retain their strength at high temperatures, resulting in relatively high plastic deformation of the cutting tool resulting in depth of cut notches. During machining, the high chemical reactivity of titanium alloys causes the chips to weld to the cutting tool, leading to built-up cutting edges and chip breakage problems.

Over the past few years, Iscar has invested many resources in research and development to resolve these obstacles and optimise the machining of nickel-based and titanium high temperature alloys, with solutions that include the creation of customised grades and implementation of high pressure coolant technologies to develop cutting tools that will handle the heat issues.


For high material removal rates, Iscar developed ceramic grades to facilitate machining nickel-based alloys at cutting speeds of 200–400m/min:

IW7—Whisker-reinforced ceramic grade, provides high hardness with excellent toughness used for roughing and semi-finishing continues operations at 8-10 times faster cutting speeds when compared with carbide grades.

IS25—Reinforced SiAlON composite grade, Excellent for machining Ni based high temperature alloys at continuous and light interrupted applications.

IS35—Reinforced SiAlON composite grade, Excellent for machining Ni based high temperature alloys at light & heavy interrupted applications.

A series of carbide grades was developed specifically to create tools for machining nickel-based and titanium alloys:

IC806—A hard submicron substrate combined with a thin TiAlN PVD coating. The unique coating procedure which involves a special post coating treatment creates a thinner and smoother coating layer providing the insert with the best characteristics suitable for machining nickel-based and titanium alloys.

IC804— Same TiAlN PVD coating on a harder submicron substrate designed especially for machining Ni based alloys used in newly designed jet engine parts that feature very high hardness (40-47 HRC).

IC20—An uncoated carbide grade which is highly recommended for machining aluminum and titanium. IC20 provides very high performance and is mostly used for continuous cut applications.

High Pressure Coolant Tools

Image Source: Iscar

Although high pressure coolant features have been in existence for a long time in the metal removal world. Today high pressure coolant tools play an increasingly significant role in the machining process, facilitating enhanced productivity and chip control especially for hard to machine materials such as titanium and nickel-based alloys. Incorporating high pressure is the key to directing coolant to exactly where it is needed in order to flush the chips away from the cut.

Iscar was one of the first cutting tool producers to respond to market needs by developing and manufacturing tools for the optimal use of high pressure coolant in lowering high temperatures and regulating chip flow, including Jetcut custom high-pressure coolant tools.

While the aerospace parts OEM/PMA sector is under constant pressure to keep costs down, the quality and life expectancy of the parts produced cannot be compromised—and this represents an enormous challenge for all involved.  Iscar’s enhanced cutting tools allow jet engine manufacturers to utilise the ideal materials for the production of high quality parts, with minimum wastage and maximum efficiency.

New Heights For Aerospace Industry

New Heights For Aerospace Industry

The challenges that the aerospace sector, in particular, presents motivates manufacturers to generate more inspired solutions to meet customer demands. Contributed by Sutton Tools

Melbourne-based Sutton Tools has never been hesitant about the expansion of its global markets. To its credit, the manufacturer has recently delivered increased productivity gains for a European aerospace customer.

Jeff Boyd, export manager of Sutton Tools said, “Our business has been built on tackling the most challenging demands for tools, and the aerospace sector is a prime example of an industry that constantly demands sophisticated solutions. However, it’s a tough market where there is a lot of competition and success is based on the ability to prove productivity gains.”

Several aerospace component producers in France had been buying a competitor’s brand, leading the Sutton Tools European office to identify an opportunity to manufacture a better performing solution and in doing so, win the business by delivering a 20 percent productivity gain for the customer.  Continual demand to lower costs through productivity is a key issue for the aviation and aerospace industries, with customers emphasising the need for reliance on tool stability so they can confidently forecast their production schedules and reduce machine down time.

“We recognised that development of specific aviation industry cutting tools is critical. These tools need a longer life and faster cycle times when working with high strength materials such as titanium and Inconel,” Mr Boyd said.

“The customer’s needs focused on solid carbide milling cutters between 12 to 20 mm that could deliver stable performance across a range of applications,” recounted Mr Boyd. The search commenced for a solution with full understanding that the demands of the industry meant that the company had to push the boundaries of its design and manufacturing technologies across its entire knowledge base of microgeometry, materials, coatings and micro-finishing of surfaces.

Pushing the Envelope To Produce Smarter Tools

The engineering team at Sutton Tools focused on the need for a smoother, high precision surface finish which would also strengthen the adhesion of the tool coating. To achieve the high finish needed, test results were compared from grinding tools using the tool maker’s traditional Anca ball-screw movement machines with an Anca linear motion tool grinder.

The team also experimented with different grinding wheel grades and grinding parameters to determine the best possible finish. After studying surface roughness of the tools, it was discovered that the output from a linear motion grinder could achieve a higher accuracy of surface finish than ball-screw machines.

To validate grinding methods, an optical 3D scanning technique was utilised to measure the surface area roughness at 100-1 magnification on the rake face and cutting edge on the tools. This 3D technique enabled the quality levels to be managed to a considerably high level of accuracy.

“The intensive engineering approach by our team produced a successful outcome for the customer by improving their productivity,” Mr Boyd stated, adding also that such a process has effectively demonstrated that Sutton possesses the capability of being a reliable aerospace industry supplier.

While Sutton Tools operates advanced manufacturing facilities in the Netherlands and India, it is the Melbourne factory that has carried out the whole evaluation process and produced these application-specific end mills for the French aerospace market.

In the past, titanium was not easy to machine. However, since this material has been adopted in many industries, the experience amassed by fabricators gives us lots of titanium machining insight. Today, titanium can be fabricated just as simply as stainless steel.

Here are some noteworthy things when machining titanium:

  1. Recommended cutting speed. This should be less than 60 m/min for roughing and three to four times that when finishing. Otherwise, thermal softening as well as chemical reaction between tool and workpiece, may occur. Feed rates are entirely dependent upon chip loads as well as other elements, but should be large enough to prevent work hardening. Follow cutting tool manufacturers’ recommendations.
  2. Titanium conducts heat very slowly. During machining operations, poor thermal conductivity traps heat in the work zone, severely compromising cutting tools. If your machine setup can handle the additional load, consider raising the feed rate to transfer more heat into the chips.
  3. High heat and stringy chips. Because of this, a copious flow of clean cutting fluid is required.
  4. Titanium is extremely tough. Use positive rake geometry. The cutting tool must be sharp and should have a tough substrate and hard coating.
  5. Filtration to 25-micron or better is critical. Increasing its concentration to at least 10 percent, and installing a high-pressure pump of 500 psi or more removes chips from the work area. Using coolant-fed cutting tools with inserts enhances chip control. Investing in a high-quality machine tool is key if you are serious about titanium.
  6. Titanium will grab end mills under heavy loads. This leads to scrapped workpieces and broken tools. Getting no-fail toolholders for your cutters, and hydraulic vises with hardened and ground jaws for clamping titanium parts, remedies the issue.
  7. Develop a sound machining procedure prior to the first cut. All of the part features should be analysed, taking special consideration of unsupported areas, tall or thin walls and difficult to reach features. Planning your moves carefully by utilising the right cutters, feeds and speeds, and generating toolpaths helps meet the above conditions.



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