Aerotech's First Choice to Prepare for All Eventualities
Customer Story_Aerotech Precision Manufacturing
Reduce Cycle Times and Raise Process Reliability
In the wake of the Brexit decision, UK manufacturing is faced with uncertain and challenging times. Aerotech Precision Manufacturing (hereinafter Aerotech) has continued to make investments in its equipment and facilities to further enhance its corporate competitiveness and capitalize on opportunities in the post-Brexit world. Founded in 1990, Aerotech manufactures and supplies high-precision complex components and assemblies for the aerospace, defense, medical device, nuclear, and oil & gas sectors, as well as parts for the ‘special purpose’ processing industry and packaging equipment and machines. The components machined by Aerotech vary considerably and include prototypes and one-offs. A significant proportion of Aerotech’s work is in highly-regulated markets requiring a very high level of cutting technologies. For that reason, the company has invested heavily in ensuring it has the correct accreditations and certifications to operate and grow within the aerospace, defense, medical device, and nuclear sectors, including AS 9100 (Rev C); ISO 9001; ISO 14001 and Fit4Nuclear. The emphasis on quality, lead-time fulfillment and cost competitiveness explains, to a large extent, the company’s investment in Doosan’s VCF 850LSR machine in October 2016. Aaron Houston, Aerotech's Business Development Manager, said "We operate in highly-competitive global markets, which means we simply cannot afford to stand still if we are to cope with the rapidly changing manufacturing environments while keeping our customers highly satisfied with our performance." He went on to say, "As a consequence, we regularly audit and review our engineering and technical capacity and capabilities - benchmarking where we are against where we need to be. If there’s a disconnect between the two, we make strategic investments in the latest technology to bridge the gap in our production operations.”
Get Ready for the Era of Multi-tasking Machining and Flexible Production with 5-axis Machine Tools
As part of the company’s continuous improvement program, Aerotech made the decision to replace one of its existing large-capacity 3-axis machines with a new, high-specification 5-axis machining center in order to solve the problems caused by the accumulation of machining tolerances in the processes of clamping and non-clamping, which makes high-precision processing difficult, and the decline in productivity due to non-machining time. The investment in the 5-axis machining center was intended to help the company reduce job set-up times and part-cycle times (by adopting a one-hit machining strategy) and, in doing so, improve its productivity and process reliability.
Aerotech Director Allan Redfern explained: “Although we decided on the 5-axis machine tool route, there are so many different types and models available that we made sure we gave ourselves sufficient time to investigate the market thoroughly to ensure we selected the right machine for our requirements.” Most notably, Aerotech has to meet the exacting requirements of numerous customers in different industries such as the aerospace, defense, medical device and nuclear industries. Given the characteristics of the materials and cutting parts used in those industries, Aerotech opted for large-sized multitasking 5-axis machine tools that could be used for multiple purposes with a variety of applications. Since Aerotech produces diverse types of spare parts, ranging from long complex-shaped parts to relatively small parts, in large quantities, the company focused its market research on a multi-purpose machine tool with a wide X-axis that could deliver excellent cutting performance and outstanding work precision while enabling the company to produce parts using 3-axis, 4+1, and full 5-axis simultaneous machining.
"As a result of our investigation of various brands of 5-axis machine tools, Doosan Machine Tools' multipurpose vertical machine center, the VCF 850LSR, emerged as a strong candidate," said Director Allan Redfern. "In 2013, our company bought a PUMA 480L lathe of Doosan Machine Tools, and we were - and still are - very impressed with its reliability and performance as well as the after-sales service and technical support. Thus, with a high degree of interest in the VCF 850LSR, we had opportunities to check the machine tool in action firsthand." “The VCF 850LSR is being used to machine complex, high-precision components for the customers in the aerospace, defense and nuclear sectors," said director Redfern. "One of the components being machined with the Doosan machine tool is used in advanced, remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs), which are used in the detection, assessment and destruction of sea mines." “The component is made from aerospace grade aluminum alloy and is solid-machined on our lathes (first operation) before being 4-/5-axis machined on the VCF 850LSR. The components are rough-machined in the first instance, which requires significant high accuracy stock removal, and are then finish-machined to realize a Ra 0.4μm surface finish.
“Since we began machining these parts on the new Doosan machine, our cycle times have been reduced dramatically,” said director Redfern. "Our investment in the machine tools of Doosan Machine Tools has proved very successful so far." Now, the VCF 850LSR is taking on more and more work. The machine has also become a focal point for customers visiting Aerotech’s production facility. Aaron Houston, the Business Development Manager, concludes, “When visitors see the VCF 850LSR up close and in action, they are impressed. The machine provides them with confidence and the certainty that Aerotech can achieve the part quality and lead times they demand. He went on to say, “With advanced machining technologies like the VCF 850LSR on our side, we are prepared for most, if not all, eventualities in these challenging times and are ready to actively seize any opportunities the future might hold for us.”