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Tool Craft For Aircraft

Tool Craft For Aircraft

Andrei Petrilin, Technical Manager of ISCAR showcases its new developments for aircraft machining of tomorrow.  

In machining aerospace components, the main challenges relate to component materials. Titanium, high-temperature superalloys (HTSA), and creep-resisting steel are difficult to cut and machining is a real bottleneck in the whole aircraft supply chain. Poor machinability of these materials results in low cutting speeds, which significantly reduces productivity and shortens tool life. Both these factors are directly connected with cutting tools. 

In fact, when dealing with hard-to-machine typical aerospace materials, cutting tool functionality defines the existing level of productivity. The truth is, cutting tools in their development lag machine tools, and this development gap limits the capabilities of leading-edge machines in the manufacturing of aerospace components.  

Modern aircraft, especially unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), feature a considerably increased share of composite materials. Effective machining composites demand specific cutting tools, which is the focus of a technological leap in the aerospace industry.

Aircraft-grade aluminum continues to be a widely used material for fuselage elements. It may seem that machining aluminum is simple, however, selecting the right cutting tool is a necessary key to success in high-efficiency machining of aluminum.

A complex part shape is a specific feature of the turbine engine technology. Most geometrically complicated parts of aero engines work in highly corrosive environments and are made from hard-to-cut materials, such as titanium and HTSA, to ensure the required life cycle. A combination of complex shape, low material machinability, and high accuracy requirements are the main difficulties in producing these parts. Leading multi-axis machining centers enable various chip removal strategies to provide complex profiles in a more effective way. But a cutting tool, which comes into direct contact with a part, has a strong impact on the success of machining. Intensive tool wear affects surface accuracy, while an unpredictable tool breakage may lead to the discarding of a whole part. 

A cutting tool – the smallest element of a manufacturing system – turns into a key pillar for substantially improved performance. Therefore, aerospace part manufacturers and machine tool builders are waiting for innovative solutions for a new level of chip removal processes from their cutting tool producers. The solution targets are evident: more productivity and more tool life. Machining complex shapes of specific aerospace parts and large-sized fuselage components demand a predictable tool life period for reliable process planning and a well-timed replacement of worn tools or their exchangeable cutting components.

Coolant jet

In machining titanium, HTSA and creep-resisting steel, high pressure cooling (HPC) is an efficient tool for improving performance and increasing productivity. Pinpointed HPC significantly reduces the temperature at the cutting edge, ensures better chip formation and provides small, segmented chips. This contributes to higher cutting data and better tool life when compared with conventional cooling methods. More and more intensive applying HPC to machining difficult-to-cut materials is a clear trend in manufacturing aerospace components. Understandably, cutting tool manufacturers consider HPC tooling an important direction of development.

ISCAR, one of leaders in cutting tool manufacturing, has a vast product range for machining with HPC. In the last year, ISCAR has expanded its range by introducing new milling cutters carrying “classical” HELI200 and HELIMILL indexable inserts with 2 cutting edges (Fig. 1). This step brings an entire page of history to ISCAR’s product line.

The HELIMILL was modified and underwent changes which led to additional milling families and inserts with more cutting edges. The excellent performance and its close derivatives of the original tools ensured their phenomenal popularity in metalworking. Therefore, by adding a modern HPC tool design to the proven HELIMILL family was a direct response to customer demand and the next logical tool line to develop.

In Turning, ISCAR considerably expanded its line of assembled modular tools comprising of bars and exchangeable heads with indexable inserts. The bars have both traditional and anti-vibration designs and differ by their adaptation: cylindrical or polygonal taper shank. A common feature for the nodular tools is the delivery of internal coolant to be supplied directly to the required insert cutting edge (Fig. 2). The efficient distribution of coolant increases the insert’s tool life by reducing the temperature and improving chip control and chip evacuation; substantially increasing this application line in the aerospace industry.

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Airbus Expands MRO Footprint In Asia

Airbus Expands MRO Footprint In Asia

Following separate announcements by Asia Digital Engineering Sdn BhD (ADE) and Korea Aviation Engineering & Maintenance Service Ltd. (KAEMS) for Airbus customers in Asia, Mathew George, Ph.D, Analyst, Aerospace, Defense and Security at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:

“AirAsia Group’s ADE and KAI’s KAEMS made separate announcements on the expansion of maintenance, repairs and overhaul (MRO), thus marking an increased footprint for Airbus customers to avail MRO services in Asia. With the pandemic still wreaking havoc, airlines and countries had put on hold the programs to purchase new aircraft and make sure that the lives of the present aircraft be extended safely as much as possible. Countries, including India, actively started to explore MRO services and proposed the possible mechanisms and programs to turn themselves into regional MRO hubs.

According to GlobalData, the military aerospace MRO market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.93 percent in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region between 2020 and 2030 and will be valued at US$17.85bn by 2030.

While ADE obtained the approval for base maintenance (hangar or C-Checks) from Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM), KAEMS was able to sign an MoU with Airbus Defense & Space (ADS) for technical support for C-212 and CN-235 aircraft. ADE’s support extends not just to AirAsia fleet of A320, A321 and A330 aircraft, the approval allows it to undertake MRO services for other airlines as well. ADE was also able to secure approvals from India’s DGCA and Indonesia, raising the bar for ADE and Malaysia to provide MRO services for airlines across Southeast Asia.

Governments have shown their resolve to fund upgrade and replacement programs. However, with lockdowns continuing in countries, and increasing cases like India’s still a possibility in other geographies, airlines and governments will continue to focus on sustainment of existing capability. In addition, with long lead times and unexpected delays still a possibility, a lackadaisical approach to MRO is not something anyone can afford.”

 

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Advancing Aerospace Manufacturing With CAD/CAM

Advancing Aerospace Manufacturing With CAD/CAM

CNC Software (Mastercam) explains how today’s CAD/CAM can help you succeed in the increasingly competitive aircraft component manufacturing space.

Innovation in the aerospace industry is experiencing a resurgence of sorts, with the idea of tourist flights into space becoming more of a reality with the new technologies coming out of Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic. From space age materials to tiny, tight-tolerance components, to cutting-edge engine and propulsion technologies, aerospace manufacturers have always been the visionaries of innovative design. Innovative design brings with it, however, the need for innovative manufacturing practices. A design is no good unless it can be turned into an actual part. 

Machining technology has evolved ten-fold since that first rocket ship was built. As has the computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software to power those machines. Here, we shall discuss the latest innovations in CAM software and how the new functionality helps push the machines to their full potential, yielding parts never before imaginable in record time.

Commercial Aviation Industry: Current Industry Snapshot

As of January 2020, the global commercial aviation industry, with a market value of nearly $5 trillion, was expected to grow slowly but steadily thanks to soaring travel demand, increasing globalisation, rising gross domestic product, liberalisation of air transport, and urbanisation. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting disruption to the global economy have led to a “wait and see” approach to determine the full impact on aerospace manufacturing and whether or not it will make an already highly competitive situation even more so.

While order backlogs decreased slightly with the reduction in fleets, it remains to be seen as to whether these orders will be filled in the near-term. For now, the aerospace industry is contending with the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis and adjusting as necessary.

Industry Challenges: Aircraft Component Supply

Aerospace component manufacturing is one of the most demanding industries and will be for the foreseeable future. Part design and development innovations have exploded since the order boom first began about 10 years ago. New materials and effective, profitable production processes have also followed suit. 

However, despite the fact that aerospace component manufacturing is more high-tech than ever, the pressure is still on for quick turnaround times to meet high delivery rates. Although the current statistics show a slowdown in orders, the production and delivery backlogs are still very real. Generally speaking, the supplier must take a systematic approach with the optimal CNC machine tools, spindles, fixtures, cutting tools, coolant systems, controls, and software. 

How CAD/CAM Software Can Benefit Aircraft Component Manufacturing

Focusing on one aspect of the system, CAD/CAM software, is one area of opportunity for improved aircraft component production. One might not initially think that it is a vital aspect of success in making aircraft components. However, it is an important behind-the-scenes player in producing the complex parts specified by aerospace manufacturers.

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A New Approach To Aircraft Titanium Machining

A New Approach To Aircraft Titanium Machining

Makino introduces a new approach to overcome the challenges in titanium parts machining for aerospace manufacturers. 

The appeal of Titanium is no mystery. Its material properties of toughness, strength, corrosion resistance, thermal stability and light weight are highly beneficial to the construction of today’s aircraft.

However, aerospace manufacturers producing titanium parts quickly discover the difficulty these material properties present during the machining process. The combination of titanium’s poor thermal conductivity, strong alloying tendency and chemical reactivity with cutting tools are a detriment to tool life, metal-removal rates and ultimately the manufacturer’s profit margin.

Producing titanium parts efficiently requires a delicate balance between productivity and profitability. However, in standard machining practices these two factors share an inverse relationship, meaning greater productivity can come at a higher cost due to rapid tool degradation, while the desire to increase profit margins by extending tool life may result in decreased metal-removal rates and extended cycle times.

Overcoming this issue requires a new approach by Makino in which all components of the machining process are developed and integrated specific to the material’s unique challenges—requiring a reassessment of even the most basic machine tool design considerations. This was the concept for the new T-Series 5-axis horizontal machining centers with ADVANTiGE technologies, and the results speak for themselves—four times the productivity and double the tool life.

Changing the Rules

In the past, and even in some shops today, titanium is typically machined using multi-spindle gantries and machines with geared head spindles. While these technologies have been effective, the growing complexity of part geometries and required accuracies have brought forth several limitations, including machine and spindle vibration, poor chip removal and limited tooling options.

In support of the aerospace industry’s demand for titanium, Makino established a Global Titanium Research and Development Center, managed by a select group of engineers with knowledge and experience around titanium in both academic and industrial backgrounds. 

The company’s breakthrough, ADVANTiGE, is a comprehensive set of technologies that includes an extra-rigid machine construction, Active Damping System, high-pressure, high-flow coolant system, Coolant Microsizer System and an Autonomic Spindle Technology.  Each technology is designed specifically for the titanium machining process, providing dramatic improvements in both tool life and productivity.

Creating a Rigid Platform

Rigidity of a machine tool is one of the single most important components in titanium machining, heavily influencing the equipment’s stable cutting parameters. 

Machines designed with low rigidity offer limited stable cutting zones, dramatically reducing the maximum level of productivity that can be achieved across all spindle speeds. To increase the productivity of a low-rigidity machine, manufacturers have only one option: taking lighter cuts and increasing spindle speeds, resulting in dramatic reductions in tool life.

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Farsound Achieves Aviation Suppliers Association’s Quality System ‘ASA-100’ Certification

Farsound Achieves Aviation Suppliers Association’s Quality System ‘ASA-100’ Certification

Farsound announced that it has met the requirements of the Aviation Suppliers Association’s Quality System Standard “ASA-100” and FAA Advisory Circular 00-56B.

Recent changes introduced by the CAAC (Chinese Airworthiness Authority) mandate aircraft parts distributors to be approved to quality standard ASA100 if they wish to continue supplying parts into China.

Following a successful approval assessment audit, demonstrating compliance to the requirements, Farsound has received its approval certificate to ASA100.

“This is a major achievement for Farsound, especially in the very short timescale, and will allow us to continue, and grow our business in China. My thanks go to everyone who has been involved in this project,” commented Graham Mitchell, Farsound’s Quality Director

Established February 25, 1993, the Aviation Suppliers Association (ASA), based in Washington, D.C., is a not-for-profit association, representing more than 640 global member companies. Collectively, they lead critical logistics programs, purchasing efforts, and distribution of aircraft parts world-wide. Member companies include: distributors, suppliers, surplus sales organisations, repair stations, manufacturers, airlines, operators, and other companies that provide services to the aviation parts supply industry.

The ASA Accreditation Program is a 36 month audit program based on the ASA-100 Standard. The standard was created to comply with the FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 00-56, the Voluntary Industry Distributor Accreditation Program. ASA-100 emphasises issues such as impartiality, competence, and reliability – all specific to the regulated needs of the aerospace industry.

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Aircraft Turned Parts Market To Reach US$ 1.9 Billion In 2025 Amid COVID-19

Aircraft Turned Parts Market to Reach US$ 1.9 Billion In 2025 Amid COVID-19

The aircraft turned parts market is expected to reach an estimated value of US$ 1.9 billion in 2025, impacted by COVID-19 according to Stratview Research market report.

Turning is a machining process used to obtain highly finished cylindrical parts with the help of single point cutting tools. Through turning, both solid, as well as thin-walled cylindrical parts, can be formed.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Aircraft Turned Parts Market

The rapid spread of COVID-19 exacerbated the existing aerospace industry challenges, hampered by the B737 max approval process. The pandemic left no options for aircraft manufacturers but to curtail their key aircraft production rates. For instance, Airbus announced to curtail its production by 1/3rd for 2020 with the revised rate of 40 A320s per month, 6 A350s per month, and 2 A330s per month, owing to a sudden collapse in air passenger traffic in the wake of complete travel ban imposed by several advanced and emerging economies.

Supply chain disruptions, huge cash burns, remote and adjusted work schedules, and huge COVID-19-related costs sacking the profitability are other noticeable effects of the pandemic.

However, strong fundamentals of the market, such as market entry of new aircraft programs; A321XLR, B777X, C919, and MC-21 coupled with a huge pile of order backlogs of Boeing and Airbus (12,816 commercial aircraft backlogs translating 7+ years at continuous production rates), and accelerated demand for replacing iconic aircraft such as A380 and B747 with A321, A350XWB, and B787, are some relieving factors for the entire aerospace community including the aircraft turned parts manufacturers.

It is estimated that the market is set to rebound from 2021 onwards after a nose-dive in 2020, the biggest collapse in the past two decades, and then will maintain a healthy growth pattern in the coming five years.

Asia-Pacific is expected to be the fastest-growing region in the years to come, driven by high long-term growth potential of the region. Commercial aircraft is likely to gain momentum in the region in the long run with the expected growth in the air passenger traffic and upcoming indigenous aircraft program (COMAC C919).

Military aircraft is also subjected to register a noticeable gain in the coming years, primarily driven by increasing defense budget of key economies, such as China, India, and South Korea.

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Super Alloy Machining Solution Takes Project From Loss To Profit

Super Alloy Machining Solution Takes Project from Loss to Profit

Super Alloy Machining Solution Takes Project from Loss to Profit: Here’s how one aircraft component manufacturer was able to solve a cycle time and productivity issue in their project. Article by Jeff Boyd, Sutton Tools.

Our client was in a fix. One of their Southeast Asian plants had won the contract to produce an aircraft component for supply within 12 months—but after initial celebrations of the win, that commitment was turning out to be riskier than they’d envisaged.

The problem was, they’d based their proposal (and subsequent contract terms for cost and delivery) on their cutting tools performing over the entire cycle time of 400 minutes. The two brands of tool they tried were unable to last the distance. The current tool, a design with four cutting edges, was lasting around 200 minutes—only half of the cycle time length they’d envisaged. This was causing down time for tool changes mid-cycle during the process, which was increasing their costs and restricting their output.

They realised they needed to conduct some extensive testing and tool development in order to meet their customer’s requirements on time and on budget. As we had been successfully working with another site within the same group of companies, a colleague told them about our capabilities and suggested they invite us in for discussion on how we could help and partner them on this project.

Researching the Solution

During an onsite visit, we evaluated the application and the issues they were facing. We analysed the current used tool for its wear patterns and, from this, established three modifications that could increase the life of the current design of the tool they were using:

  1. Increasing the number of cutting edges to six would distribute the wear across more contact points, effectively allowing the tool to last longer.
  2. Using a specific tool design geometry optimised for titanium and the trochoidal machining method being used. This resulted in suppressing the chatter and providing a smoother cutting action.
  3. A harder-wearing/high-temperature coating would resist the wear at the cutting edge for a longer period.

The Next Steps

We’ve found that the most critical concern when machining titanium is the quality of the components, such as surface finish. These parts often have thin walls, which can easily result in inaccurate or distorted areas when the wrong tool geometry and/or cutting parameters are applied. Our client was experiencing these issues with their current tool, so we knew that once we addressed them it would go a long way to solving their problems.

We couldn’t achieve our client’s requirements instantly, as there were a number of steps to be taken to implement the solution. We submitted a series of test tools with slightly different changes based on our recommendations, to ensure the changes we made were improving the process.

In addition to our three initial prescriptions, these included:

  1. Using a more suitable substrate grade that could withstand the normal wear characteristic of machining titanium.
  2. Applying a high surface finish on the tool by using a new linear-motion CNC grinding machine together with new generation grinding wheel technology—enabling better adhesion of the coating to the tool, which resulted longer tool life.

Business and Cost Outcomes

The business benefit of the solution we delivered meant that our client was able to meet their output target in line with their own customer’s requirements—removing the potential loss from the project. Once the tools were able to complete the entire 400-minute cycle, there was no tool change required. This increased their output of components to achieve ideal productivity, in line with the project budget.

Plus, since the wear became quite minimal after the 400 minutes of machining time, an additional financial benefit we were able to offer was our ability to refurbish their tools after use. They could then re-use them for approximately 30 percent of the cost of new tools—greatly reducing their overall tool costs over the life of the project.

Since solving this particular problem, we have gone on to solve others for this client. We have also applied the same geometry to a line of super alloy tools that are being widely adopted by components manufacturers in the ‘aerospace valley’ around Toulouse in France.

 

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EOS: Additive Manufacturing For The A350 XWB

EOS: Additive Manufacturing For The A350 XWB

Here’s how one company was able to develop a cable mount on the front spar of the vertical stabilizer for a passenger aircraft in record time. Article by EOS GmbH.

Unified design of the additively manufactured tail bracket eliminates 30 parts down to one. (Source: Sogeti)

The moment when a completely new commercial aircraft takes to the skies for the first time is always special—and this was especially true of the Airbus A350 XWB. As a child of the new millennium, it was clear from the very beginning that development work would focus on innovative materials and production processes—the goal was no less than to build the world’s most efficient aircraft.

As a technology of the future, additive manufacturing was another possibility that needed to be considered during development. As part of a pilot project, experts from Sogeti High Tech succeeded in developing a cable mount on the front spar of the vertical stabilizer for the passenger aircraft in record time, taking only two weeks from the initial sketch to the finished part. EOS technology and expertise was a pivotal aspect of this development process.

Challenge

The project specifically involved producing a cable routing mount for the latest Airbus model. The mount was ultimately needed for the power supply and data transportation of a camera located in the vertical stabilizer, providing a view of the outside to passengers and orientation on the ground to the pilots. The product requirements document called for a functionally operational component suitable for series production. This task was entrusted to Sogeti High Tech, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cap Gemini S.A.

The particular challenge in this case was the short lead time of just two weeks. The entire development had to be completed within this time frame: From analysis of the part and of the current installation set-up, a parameter study aimed at optimizing the topology and its interpretation, and the design and production of the finished part. The mount also needed to have as few support structures as possible to avoid post-processing. In addition, the specifications for the component called for integration of the snap-on cable holder, weight reduction, and compliance with the strict requirements for subsequent aviation industry certification.

The conventionally produced component was made up of formed sheet metal parts and numerous rivets—more than 30 individual parts in total. The plug connectors in the upper area were made from plastic, and thus from a different material than the other individual parts of the mount. The aim was to develop an integrated solution consisting of a single part that also included the plug connectors, thereby significantly reducing construction and installation times. The weight reduction target for additive manufacturing was determined by a parameter study based on topology optimization.

Solution

For the new component, Sogeti High Tech followed the tried-and-tested development process for designing additively manufactured parts. The project kicked off with an analysis of the existing, conventionally produced component in terms of the upcoming manufacturing process—with an extremely positive outcome. The component’s functionality, material, and previously complex structure made it an ideal candidate for powder-bed-based 3D printing technology from EOS. The design freedom offered by this technology allows complex structures to be produced in a single piece, meaning that a weight-saving design can be selected without neglecting functional integration.

This analysis then allowed the so-called design space—the space that the cable-routing mount may occupy—to be defined. The aluminium alloy AlSi10Mg, which is ideal for thin-walled, complex structures, was chosen as the material. The interfaces to the external areas remained the same, forming the non-design space, meaning that no changes are needed to be made to them. The defined loads were taken as the boundary conditions for topology optimization in the parameter study, providing the basis for a new design.

As is customary, CAE software was used for the topology optimization calculations; by contrast, a dedicated solution for designing structures with free-form surfaces was used for the re-design. Sogeti High Tech created the design itself. In order to meet the lead time of two weeks, EOS calculated the build time and optimized parameters from the topology optimization results using the EOSPRINT software, which created the CAE implementation for the manufactured part while also taking into account the possibilities and limitations of the manufacturing process and the need to avoid support structures.

“In addition to outstanding hardware, EOS also offers comprehensive expertise in making additively manufactured components reality—something that we rate very highly,” says Carlos Ribeiro Simoes, Additive Manufacturing Offering Leader at Sogeti High Tech.

Results

Thanks to the cooperation between Sogeti and EOS, it was possible to develop a component optimized for additive manufacturing that fully exploits the design freedom afforded by direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technology, while at the same time taking account of its restrictions. This allowed plug connectors for cable routing to be integrated into the design and local reinforcement to be incorporated in specific critical areas in order to optimize the structure. Self-supporting apertures and struts within the component help to keep the effort, and hence, the post-processing costs to a minimum.

Additionally, the mount can be produced extremely fast, whenever it is needed. Manufacturing—performed on an EOS M 400 with layer thicknesses of 90 μm—only takes 19 hours instead of the 70 days previously required. This corresponds to a reduction in the production time well in excess of 90 percent. This is largely because the many individual steps and formerly 30 parts have been brought together in a central component that can now be produced in a single run. In addition, the individual parts no longer need to be constructed and held in stock, which can be expensive. Storage for the entire component assembly is now also much more straightforward.

Sogeti was not only able to save a huge amount of time in production, but also in development. The entire process from the initial sketch to the finished component took only two weeks. This is a phenomenal lead time. At the same time, the design also means greater weight efficiency. Whereas the conventionally manufactured original part weighed 452 g, the additively manufactured cable mount weighs just 317 g—and it is well known that the aviation industry counts every single gram in the interest of cutting fuel consumption to a minimum. The customer, Airbus, was more than satisfied with the results.

“Getting an existing component ‘AM-ready’ in just two weeks meant that we had to succeed at the first attempt. The excellent, proactive collaboration with EOS made this ambitious undertaking possible—with outstanding results,” says Simoes.

 

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Creaform Launches 3D Scanning Solution Suite For The Aerospace Industry

Creaform Launches 3D Scanning Solution Suite for the Aerospace Industry

Creaform has released HandySCAN AEROPACK, a 3D scanning solution suite that addresses the specific challenges of aircraft quality control, such as assessing damage from hailstorms or aircraft incidents as well as flap and spoiler inspections. The HandySCAN AEROPACK can also be used for reverse engineering, maintenance and repair operations, and designing hard-to-acquire spare parts.

The HandySCAN AEROPACK solution includes: HandySCAN 3D, a metrology-grade, portable 3D scanner designed to acquire accurate, repeatable and reliable measurements—even in difficult environments, such as aircraft hangers or shop floors, and with both complex surfaces and parts of all sizes; SmartDENT 3D, an aircraft surface inspection software for assessing aircraft flaps, spoilers, fuselage, etc.; VXinspect, a dimensional inspection software module for quality control workflows and inspection reports; and VXmodel, a post-treatment software module to finalize and further process 3D scan data in any CAD solution.

Intuitive and easy to use by operators of any skill level, Creaform’s HandySCAN AEROPACK makes quality control and reverse engineering processes very efficient by reducing user impact on measurement results and accelerating generation time for final reports or CAD designs. Featuring unmatched performance, HandySCAN AEROPACK never compromises on diagnosis results or safety.

HandySCAN 3D is listed in the Airbus Technical Equipment Manual, which is referenced in its Structure Repair Manual. It is also part of Boeing’s Service Letter, meaning it can be used for recording physical attributes of aircraft dents of all Boeing commercial airplanes.

“The aerospace industry is facing increasing challenges due to manufacturers’ accelerated innovation, stricter regulatory standards, heightened concerns for passenger safety, mounting costs of grounded aircraft, and profitability targets,” explained Jérôme-Alexandre Lavoie, Product Manager at Creaform. “Because the HandySCAN AEROPACK package was developed with these challenges in mind, aircraft and MRO companies can tackle them head on with our solution suite.”

 

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Airbus Opens Automated A320 Assembly Line

Airbus Opens Automated A320 Assembly Line

Airbus has inaugurated its highly automated fuselage structure assembly line for A320 Family aircraft in Hamburg, showcasing an evolution in Airbus’ industrial production system.

With a special focus on manufacturing longer sections for the A321LR, the new facility features 20 robots, a new logistics concept, automated positioning by laser measurement as well as a digital data acquisition system. These will further support Airbus’ drive to improve both quality and efficiency while bringing an enhanced level of digitalisation to its industrial production system.

“By embracing some of the latest technologies and processes, Airbus has begun its journey to set new standards in A320 Family production. This new fuselage structure assembly line is an essential enabler for the A320 Family ramp-up. Increasing the level of automation and robotics enables faster, more efficient manufacturing while keeping our prime focus on quality,” said Michael Schoellhorn, Airbus Chief Operating Officer.

For the initial section assembly, Airbus is using a modular, lightweight automated system, called “Flextrack”, with eight robots drilling and counter-sinking 1,100 to 2,400 holes per longitudinal joint. In the next production step, 12 robots, each operating on seven axes, combine the centre and aft fuselage sections with the tail to form one major component, drilling, counter-sinking, sealing and inserting 3,000 rivets per orbital joint.

Besides the use of robots, Airbus is also implementing new methods and technologies in material and parts logistics to optimise production, improve ergonomics and shorten lead times. This includes the separation of logistics and production levels, demand-oriented material replenishment as well as the use of autonomous guided vehicles.

The Hamburg structure assembly facility is responsible for joining single fuselage shells into sections, as well as final assembly of single sections to aircraft fuselages. Aircraft parts are equipped with electrical and mechanical systems before eventually being delivered to the final assembly lines in France, Germany, China and the U.S.

 

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