Advanced materials science and high performance additive manufacturer Oxford Performance Materials Inc. (OPM) has closed an additional round of strategic investment from Hexcel Corp. In May 2016, OPM and Hexcel announced an initial investment from Hexcel of $15 million. The second round of investment from Hexcel is $10 million.
OPM develops proprietary material, process, and application technologies. Its aerospace & industrial business unit applies 3D printing technology and high performance additive manufacturing (HPAM) to produce functional end-use parts that combine structural strength, enhanced performance, weight reduction, and time-to-market benefits.
Connecticut-based Hexcel Corp. offers advanced composites technology with worldwide manufacturing locations. OPM Aerospace & Industrial use Hexcel carbon fiber in the production of OPM’S 3D printed OXFAB–ESD advanced thermoplastic structural parts for its aerospace, satellite & defense programs. www.oxfordpm.com
In January, Boeing contracted OPM to supply 3D-printed OXFAB structural production parts for the CST-100 Starliner. Hexcel’s follow-on investment will further enable OPM to expand capacity to meet rapidly growing market demand for the company’s OXFAB technology in aerospace and other industries. www.hexcel.com
In March, Renishaw installed the RenAM 500M at the Centre for Advanced Aerospace Technologies (CATEC) in Seville, Spain. It is the first installation of this additive manufacturing (AM) machine in the Iberian Peninsula.
CATEC promotes and development of R&D activities within the aerospace sector in Andalusia, actively developing new technologies and the transfer of best practices.
CATEC is working alongside Renishaw Ibérica in the optimization of manufacturing parameters of Inconel 718 and other nickel-based alloys for use in high-temperature applications in different sectors.
The RenAM 500M is a laser powder bed fusion AM system designed for metal components on the factory floor. It features automated powder and waste handling systems that enable consistent process quality, reduce operator touch times, and ensure high standards of system safety.
“CATEC is actively working on the development of aerospace applications with additive manufacturing technology, covering all the stages of the production cycle to support companies in the implementation of this technology,” says Fernando Lasagni, head of materials and processes development at CATEC. “This involves parameterizing various aeronautical alloys so that they can be manufactured to the highest quality standards. Due to the industrial strength of the RenAM 500M system, its increased manufacturing capacity (in volume), and the high power of the laser (500W), the short-term objective will be to achieve manufacturing parameters that ensure the aeronautical quality of the materials. We expect to take steps in the development of applications, thereby reducing the unit costs of the components.” www.catec.aero/en; www.renishaw.com
Stratasys Ltd. is partnering with Dassault Systèmes to provide design tools that improve the functionality, efficiency, and weight ratio of additively manufactured production parts. The companies have collaborated on design and simulation capabilities for Dassault Systèmes’ 3DExperience platform which support Stratasys’ FDM 3D printers and materials.
“For additive manufacturing to reach its true potential, engineers need tools that will allow them to harness the virtually limitless geometric freedom that it provides. By fully simulating the unique characteristics of the FDM process, we’re able to bring unprecedented accuracy and speed to design and validation,” says Scott Berkey, CEO, Simulia, Dassault Systèmes. www.stratasys.com; www.3ds.com
Aerospace agencies need to move away from highly expensive, specialized contract products and focus on how they can deliver innovation at scale at a faster pace and lower price.
The role of traditional information technology (IT) within organizations is being challenged by consumerization. Today’s enterprises are being pushed to provide experiences that rival those provided by consumer companies – users’ expectations are driven by the devices and technologies they use in their personal lives. Those expectations are carrying into the design, speed, and functionality of enterprise products that hardly ever considered end-user needs.
Aerospace is an industry feeling the effect of this shift, and it needs to change. But how?
The aerospace industry can learn from tried and true software development methodologies to adapt and modernize aerospace manufacturing environments to increase operational efficiency and lower production costs while providing customers with a superior product to drive consumer satisfaction.
Continuous delivery is an approach to software engineering, designed to build, test, and deploy software more frequently for improved user experience. The process attempts an optimal blend of the human creative element of software development with the efficiency of manufacturing processes. Continuous delivery starts when a human completes creative work. This hand-off from human to computer is achieved when a programmer commits an incremental software change to a version management system. The version management system tracks the author and contents of each change, making it easy to see all changes.
From that point, all remaining tasks necessary to deliver a software product get automated. Software product builds, deployments to test environments, and execution of various simulations are executed frequently, potentially many times a day. As far as the release process and infrastructure are concerned, any given software change could be the one that results in an official release to customers.
In typical aerospace and manufacturing processes, the majority of deliveries are strictly to internal consumers, such as quality assurance. External releases tend to occur rather infrequently, perhaps with milestones taking 18 months. Continuous delivery may be met with a “not for us” reaction as the logical extreme best suits environments where the need for making changes fast is great and the cost of failure is low. When continuous delivery is applied in processes with a premium on initial quality, the benefit comes from lowering the cost of getting software changes into an environment where they can be tested quickly.
With the methodology, project status dashboards show each software component or module as a happy or angry icon (e.g. green/red dots). Staff are trained to treat any unhappy icons on the dashboard with a sense of urgency. A full green dashboard for all components is required to achieve delivery.
When a human selects a change to be the last one prior to a release, the process for delivering that change will have been executed for the 10,000th time, not the first. Continuous delivery processes provide more than efficiency; they build confidence. That’s especially critical in processes when there are few, or perhaps even a single opportunity for an actual release.
Continuous delivery should be applied pragmatically, automating everything within reason, while a few manual processes serve to elevate particular deliveries above the steady hum of continuous deliveries. This includes things that defy easy automation, or that take too long to be integrated into a continuous daily cycle. Some examples are:
Achieving continuous delivery requires an investment in release engineering processes and tooling. It also promotes communication and coordination among various organizations involved in the release process, such as development, quality assurance, release engineering, and operations.
Many studies confirm the dramatic cost savings and return on investment (ROI) in release engineering and continuous delivery processes. It is well known in the software development world that, just as with manufacturing, the cost of finding and fixing problems differs by orders of magnitude depending on which phase in the process the fix occurs.
The amount of rework and associated costs required goes up the longer it takes to find and fix problems. Continuous delivery processes tighten cycle time and help drive fast feedback, reducing costs, and eliminating human error in processes that are best done by machines.
Where continuous delivery emphasizes automation of mechanical processes and tools, the collection of practices and trends known as DevOps goes further, emphasizing a broader scope and tighter collaboration among people in certain development and operational roles. Continuous delivery is a step along the way to a complete DevOps pipeline and cultural transformation.
Large scale, pure software development projects (those not related to hardware components) and embedded systems projects at any scale often practice some form of component-based or modular development. With embedded systems, the very nature of working with hardware tends to drive development in clearly defined components.
Pure software systems often grow organically, starting small and eventually becoming large enough to be referred to as monolithic systems. Monolithic systems tend to defy the fast build, test, and deployment cycles demanded by continuous delivery. At some point of scale, the benefits of a modular architecture (such as being able to replace or add any component without affecting the rest of the system) tend to outweigh the initial simplicity of systems that are completely interwoven, monolithic systems. Conversion from monolithic to modular architectures is a common and recurring theme in the software industry.
Seasoned developers and development organizations prefer to avoid building monoliths to start. As with other industries, the aerospace industry has matured in application of CBD principles, investing in the planning and discipline to encourage development of modular systems by initial design rather than expensive conversion from a grew-too-big monolithic system.
Assembling software products from many components requires investment in locally appropriate development standards, build, and possibly dependency management systems, and in some cases code frameworks. It also entails a bit of a mindset shift, as developing components promotes better re-use from the start. The difference is subtle: when developing a module that is part of a large monolithic system, less attention is paid to future re-use of that component than when it is developed initially.
The benefit of building for re-use is limited if a single airplane is built but becomes dramatic when multiple aircraft benefit from the same technology. This engineering for reusability matters even in those aerospace programs where only a relatively small number of planes are built. In such cases, each one tends to be a high value item, and the component is extensively tested. Re-using a well-tested, well-proven module helps lower costs.
CBD concepts have been around for a long time, but modern advances are improving several aspects of CBD, such as version management practices and life cycle management.
Version management is a component of configuration management that tracks revision history for documents, programs, code, or files of any kind. The most basic version management challenge of CBD is complex dependency management. Typically, a set of software products are built from a different set of components, with each product using different versions of the same pool of components. Each component may, in turn, depend on other components, with several layers of software between the foundation components and top-level products. Better version management solutions help identify situations where multiple versions of a component are inadvertently used in the same product, known as diamond dependency.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of CBD, and the one most matured, is the management of atomic changes in such large-scale modular architectures. Organizations managing large-scale modular systems have proven methods for safely making coordinated, broad-impact changes. The approach relies on having a single source of truth, a monorepo – a single repository capable of tracking changes to a set of products and all components used to build those products. A monorepo simplifies the search for affected components and allows change to all layers to be made as an atomic transaction, making it easier to evaluate the impact and cost of a single software change (and making it easier to revert the change should that become necessary). Upon the commit, continuous delivery processes quickly test the impact of the change at all levels, including low-level components and all impacted products.
Software life cycle management has also improved in recent years. In addition to tracking changes to software code, managing a product’s configuration is also necessary. At its simplest, a configuration entails the list of versions of each component used. Tracking changes to both code and configuration is necessary with CBD. Configuration changes sometimes drive code changes, and vice-versa.
Mature solutions provide environment management systems, applying configuration management principles to manage and track which components are deployed and what resources (hardware, storage systems, databases, etc.) are available.
Those valuable conversations have relevant context, and can easily be discovered years later. The review process makes mistakes less likely to happen, and can provide valuable information when trying to find out why a software change was made that led to a system failure or product recall. Code review processes have collateral benefits as well, such as cross-training.
Basic code review starts with post-commit review processes, which start after code is committed to a version control repository. Some organizations use advanced, pre-commit code review processes, intended (for example) to ensure that nothing ever gets into the version control system that hasn’t at least had a second set of eyes on it. Typically, pre-commit code review processes are required only for the most highly critical modules. In less-critical modules, pre-commit reviews are sometimes used as a training tool, where a junior developer might make a proposed change and request a review by peers or a tech lead prior to committing to the repository.
Test-driven development (TDD) is complementary with continuous delivery and CBD. Essentially, TDD reverses the traditional approach. Traditionally, an engineer would develop a module, and then wait for someone else maybe later to write a test for it. TDD is a more disciplined approach that clarifies the developer is also responsible for writing unit tests. It promotes that tests be written before functional software. The first of the continuous builds of a module executes a test with only a stub for the new module, and therefore always fails.
As an extension, the first change to the functional software is to add documentation, creating a doc-only version that says what it will do before it does anything.
In aerospace, TDD can be expanded beyond unit tests. Complex modules that interact with hardware systems may be prohibitively expensive for actual testing. Such modules are tested with simulators that inject environmental stimuli to the software component, and then capture and evaluate outputs. Simulators tend to be sophisticated software products, and are often developed in parallel with the systems they are intended to test.
Aerospace software projects produce more artifacts than software source code. Versioning is best applied throughout the software life cycle to track the many items that evolve over time. Versioned items typically include requirements documents, marketing documents, source code, test suites and simulators, fully built software, and more. If it evolves, version it.
With this breadth of modern software development practices, aerospace and manufacturing environments can greatly improve their speed, reduce costs, and provide a product which will beat any modern expectations.
About the author: C. Thomas Tyler is a principal solutions consultant and developer evangelist at Perforce Software. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The F-35 Joint Program Office has assigned landing gear maintenance for the F-35 fleet in Europe and the Pacific to GKN Aerospace’s Fokker business unit in the Netherlands. It’s the first time that F-35 maintenance work has been awarded, and the potential value amounts to tens of millions of dollars throughout the program.
The selection covers maintenance of wheels, brakes, and shock strut assemblies, starting in 2021. Fokker’s landing gear business also is involved in the design and manufacture of the F-35 arresting gear and in the development of its composite landing gear drag brace. www.gkn.com/aerospace
Lufthansa Technik and MTU Aero Engines are planning a joint venture for the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) of Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan (GTF) engines. Each of the partners will hold a 50% stake with startup planned for the second half of 2017. The new facility will be up and running by 2020 with a workforce of more than 500 employees. The search for a globally competitive location will be completed within a few months, with a total of around $159 million to be invested.
The facility will accommodate more than 300 shop visits per year of PW1000G-family GTF engines.
In July 2016, Lufthansa Technik joined the aftersales service network for GTF engines that offers a range of MRO services for PW1000G engines.
MTU Aero Engines is a partner of Pratt & Whitney in the PW1000G engines selected as the propulsion systems for new aircraft programs launched by five different aircraft manufacturers. To date, airlines around the world have ordered more than 8,000 of the engines. www.lufthansa-technik.com; www.mtu.de
Bombardier Business Aircraft has established five new line maintenance stations across Europe. The facilities provide line maintenance support to customers in Europe, complementing Bombardier’s heavy maintenance service and support network.
The expansion is part of a strategy to enhance original equipment manufacturer (OEM) support to European operators, including the new heavy maintenance facility at London Biggin Hill Airport (pictured right), says Jean-Christophe Gallagher, vice-president and general manager, customer experience, Bombardier Business Aircraft.
The facilities are located in Linz, Austria; Nice and Cannes, France; and Milan and Olbia, Italy, and provide scheduled line maintenance along with unscheduled and aircraft-on-ground (AOG) maintenance support for Bombardier Learjet, Challenger, and Global aircraft in Europe.
The line maintenance facilities join Bombardier Business Aircraft’s nine service centers and 17 Customer Response Team mobile units worldwide. The network’s approximately 1,000 dedicated technicians have completed 45,000 maintenance events to date. www.bombardier.com
The GE and CFM International TRUEngine program has reached 15,000 engine enrollments, a 25% increase in the past year. More than 200 operators and lessors have enrolled their jet engines in the program.
“Customers understand the significant TRUEngine designation benefits, such as higher asset residual values, optimized product support, and the ease of remarketing their assets,” says Jean Lydon-Rodgers, president and CEO of GE Aviation’s Services organization.
The TRUEngine qualification process includes the customer submitting maintenance records and a review by GE or CFM to ensure engine configuration and overhaul practices are consistent with GE- and CFM-issued engine manuals and other recommendations. There is no cost to participate, and the TRUEngine designation is fully transferable.
With the TRUEngine designation, engine owners, potential buyers, lessors, and appraisers know an engine’s content and maintenance history have been verified by GE or CFM, enabling them to more easily evaluate engine configuration, asset value, and re-marketability. Engines maintained in the OEM configuration can have as much as 50% higher residual value versus engines maintained with parts manufacturer approval (PMA) content and/or designated engineering repairs (DERs). The TRUEngine designation is provided on an individual engine serial number and remains in effect until the next shop visit.
Launched in 2008 for the CFM56 engine family, the program has been expanded to include GE’s GE90, CF6, GEnx (shown above), and CF34 engines. www.geaviation.com/truengine
At Triumph Structures – Wichita, staying on the leading edge of machining technology is critical for the aerospace components manufacturer to meet customers’ requirements for quality and on-time delivery.
When manufacturing monolithic structural parts for commercial and military aircraft, few machines are big enough for the job. That’s why management at Triumph Structures – Wichita invested in a Makino A6 – the first one installed in the U.S. In production since mid-2016, this 5-axis horizontal machining center (HMC) has exceeded its goals:
“We strive to be a world-class facility. We want to not only deliver on time with good quality, but we also intend to be world class through our processes and the way we cut aerospace structural parts. To do that, we obviously need to have world-class equipment to support that dream,” says Kelly Eilerts, applications manager for Triumph Structures – Wichita.
Triumph Structures – Wichita is a division of Triumph Group, a global leader in manufacturing and overhauling aerospace structures, systems, and components. In Wichita, Kansas, machinists make a variety of jet aircraft and helicopter parts, which are then transported to other Triumph facilities for subassembly before delivery to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
Making complex aerospace parts out of titanium and aluminum – some billets start out as large as 3,000 lb and 17ft long – the company continues to invest with Makino. By the middle of 2017, there will be 18 Makino machines including the A6; three T2, 5-axis HMCs for landing-gear trunnions and other hard metal parts; and 14 MAG3, 5-axis HMCs for high-productivity machining of aluminum aerospace parts.
The T2 machines enable machinists to cut titanium and steel parts at a feed rate of up to 630ipm. They can efficiently mill titanium because of several advanced technologies including an active damping system; rigid construction for enhanced performance; a high-torque, high-powered spindle; and a high-pressure, high- volume coolant system for increased speed and productivity. A third T2 is being relocated from another Triumph location to expand the company’s titanium capabilities in Wichita.
The 14 MAG3 HMCs, including standard and MAG3.EX versions, run at 33,000rpm to machine wing ribs, wing spars, bulkheads, floor panels, and stringers. There are also plans for an additional five MAG3s to be moved from another location and installed within a Makino MMC2 pallet-handling system to create a cell dedicated to wing ribs.
“With the combination of the MMC2 and MAG3 machines, we’re able to run large aluminum parts 24/7 with an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) of 85%,” Eilerts says.
For the largest wing skins, spars, and ribs, however, the company’s gantry-style vertical mill wasn’t up to the task. While capable of producing parts that meet OEM requirements, the machine limited the company’s ability to grow with the aerospace industry. Specifically, Triumph needed better thermal stabilization to improve precision. Four walls enclose the gantry-style machine, but it doesn’t have a roof on the cabinet or climate controls – exposing the spindle, tools, and workpieces to temperature changes in the shop. With programs scaled to account for temperature variation, the process is slow and operators must take multiple temperature readings before, during, and after processing.
In addition, the gantry-style machine has no external workstation for setting up pallets or means of changing tools automatically. The spindle must be stopped each time a tool is replaced or parts are loaded and unloaded, increasing unproductive time.
Investing in an advanced horizontal machining center (HMC) with the capabilities of the Makino A6 is a significant business decision. Triumph made the commitment in no small part because of the capacity the HMC adds to its Wichita, Kansas, facility. The company had one customer in mind when considering the investment and selecting the A6 to make wing skins and spars for a specific commercial platform. But Triumph Structures – Wichita now uses the A6 for much more. In the first four months of production, the company has been able to move additional parts from the slower, gantry-style machine onto the A6, as well as win new commercial and military orders. The speed and power of the A6 result in faster cycle times, and productivity gains from having two pallets are key.
Some of the faster production can be attributed to the machine control on the A6. Most of Triumph’s Makino T2 and MAG3 machines use the same type of control system, making it easy for operators to quickly learn how to run the A6 without extensive training. Triumph also has standardized 121 tools in the A6’s automatic tool changer (ATC), and collaborated with Makino’s aerospace engineering team to revise and standardize programming. With Makino’s engineers, Triumph focused on developing new machining methods and manufacturing processes to make full use of the A6’s features. The result are speed, precision, and quality, with repeatable tolerances of ±0.0001" and surface finishes of 32Ra. As a result, the need for secondary finishing has been reduced.
“The parts coming off the A6 are in the 30Ra range or better, which is 4x greater than what our customers require. It’s very impressive to hold that kind of surface finish with the feeds and speeds we’re running at,” says Kelly Eilerts, applications manager for Triumph Structures – Wichita.
While parts can be accurately produced on the gantry-style machine, it requires more time than a high-speed HMC such as the A6. The vertical spindle on the gantry-style machine turns at 25,000rpm, powered by 80hp while the A6 is equipped with a 33,000rpm horizontal spindle, powered by 161hp.
“This speed and power upgrade enables Triumph’s operators to hog out metal on the structural parts in some cases as fast as 1,600ipm,” says Ricky Davis, director of operations at Triumph and a veteran of nearly 30 years at aerospace manufacturers in the Wichita area. “I’ve never seen a machine move that fast.”
To control thermal variation, which can affect tolerances, the A6 is equipped with its own heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system that pumps 45 tons of chilled air into the machine enclosure to keep the work envelope, bed casting, and automatic tool changer at 68°F. Coolant is automatically chilled or heated as needed to maintain a constant temperature in the spindle, tooling, and workpieces.
“The gantry machine is much larger, but the temperature taken at the beginning of machining is not going to be the same as the temperature taken at the end of machining. That can introduce a lot of variables. Heat from the machine itself is added as it’s moving. Coolant temperature changes. This affects the temperature of your part,” Eilert explains. “With the A6, these variables have been removed. That makes it much easier for us to machine large parts accurately and consistently without having to scale our programs,” Eilerts states.
What really influenced Triumph’s decision to invest in the A6 was to improve productivity.
Equipped with two work tables outside the machine, design of the A6 enables operators to set up pallets with any combination of jobs – presently it includes four versions of wing skins and spars for those wings, a wing rib, and three versions of helicopter floor panels. Ergonomic worktables are lowered into a horizontal position so operators can safely and comfortably bolt and pin workpieces into position. Once setup is complete, the worktable is raised into a vertical position and is ready to be moved into the A6, just as soon as processing of another part finishes.
Triumph takes full advantage of this capability. The company runs two, 12-hour shifts on weekdays, with one operator scheduled on the A6 during each shift. Before weekend shifts, jobs are set up in advance and ready to be run by an operator who splits time on other machines on Saturdays and Sundays.
“That’s where the multiple tables come in handy, because we are able to use our limited resources on a weekend to unload and reload a part while the machine is still running,” says Nick Raffety, the lead A6 operator.
Equipped with an advanced Makino control, the A6 also can be programmed to automatically shuttle loaded pallets in and out of the machine, freeing up operators to handle other tasks. Triumph also equipped the A6 with Makino’s MPmax software to monitor the machine’s performance, including what programs it ran, cycle times, tool-change times, and utilization rates. MPmax can alert operators and managers to issues or when it’s time for a part change. This is just one way in the team is continually learning and implementing new features to expand unattended operations.
Because of speed, precision, repeatability, and high quality, the A6 enables Triumph to expand its relationships with customers and to pursue new customers. The A6 also keeps Triumph Structures – Wichita right where its leaders want to be – on the cutting edge of manufacturing technology and learning new ways to make better aerospace structural parts for less cost.
“We’re still proving out our processes and parts, but we have a lot of parts we could run on the A6 and reduce our cycle times by 40% to 50%,” Davis says. “We’re just getting started.”
Triumph is now planning their next step with Makino.
Internal gear tooth profile grinding technology uses a belt-drive spindle fitted to the standard GH 4.0, GH 5.0, or GH 6.0 grinding head.
A range of grinding arms that fit the three grinding heads allows changeover between external and internal gears in 30 minutes or less. Users detach the external gear grinding disk or worm, hang the internal gear grinding arm on the hardened stop, fix it in place with screws, then tension the belt-drive disk and the belt and attach the cover.
Internal gears can then be ground using a 100mm or 125mm grinding disk. The external gear grinding head does not have to be touched, and external gear grinding quality is unchanged once the internal gear grinding arm has been detached.
The IG Opal 4.0 gear grinding head has a 12,000rpm maximum spindle speed. The larger IG Opal 4.1 features a 125mm maximum grinding disk. Both arms were successfully tested using CBN and corundum disks. Where dressable grinding disks are used, the internal gear grinding arm travels up to the grinding dresser that is also used for external gear grinding.
Initially, the internal gear grinding arm is available in two sizes, with others to follow. Custom internal gear grinding arms can be developed to match customer workpieces.
i-Checker, designed to calibrate bore and linear gages and Digimatic, dial, and dial-test indicators, is at least 2x more accurate than the previous model. i-Checker achieves (0.1+0.4L/100)µm accuracy levels and at 10mm/s, is 2.5x faster than the current model.
All functions necessary for inspection are combined in the control box. Adjustment of the measurement position is aided by semi- and fully automatic measurement functions, which reduce inspection time. Digital indicators equipped with a data output function are checked via spindle positioning at the inspection points, and measurements are fully automatic. Operators can create and print simplified inspection certificates.
Updated i-Pak software includes the most recent standards for ASME, ISO, and JIS. Previous models can be upgraded with new software and controller.
Precisionlight high-speed steel (HSS) drills are designed to meet the needs of the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) sector. The line of Precisionlight HSS drills provide versatility and performance in a variety of materials and include general purpose drills with conventional 118° point geometries as well as tougher styles with 135° point, self-centering split points for more challenging applications.
Precisionlight covers most ferrous applications with drills suitable for use in portable drilling, drill presses, and other operations.
Within the Precisionlight program are the Worklight range of drills, optimized for ease of use and reliability. Worklight flute geometry improves chip evacuation, provides better coolant flow to the point, and reduces effort to push the drill through the workpiece.
The Worklight drill is offered in five series – 332HD, 333HD, 312SM, 342SDT, and 344RS. The complete program also includes Precisionlight drill sets which include a range of sizes available in most styles.