Advanced blade manufacturing facility

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 1 August 2000




(2000), "Advanced blade manufacturing facility", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 72 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Advanced blade manufacturing facility

Advanced blade manufacturing facility

Keywords: Hermle, Machining, Blades, Traub-Heckert

There are thought to be not many companies in the world that match the expertise of Weston in the manufacture of precision turbine components. Its experience in aerofoil production, for instance, goes back over 30 years and it has the capacity to produce over 40,000 blades each month. One of its accolades is to be rated the largest supplier in Europe of blades to Rolls-Royce. So, when Weston came to invest in machine tools for its advanced blade manufacturing facility it turned to Hermle for the supply of five-axis precision machine tools.

The initial purchase was for three Hermle C800U gantry type vertical machining centres, but within three months of their installation an order was placed for a further three units, all supplied and installed by Traub-Heckert UK Limited. All six machines are now in full production (Plate 5).

Weston is a family-owned business run by managing director Richard Sutton and his brother Jim, director of Factory Services. They are the third generation of Suttons in the 50-year-old company, a tradition that gives Weston a high level of stability and an unrivalled commitment to customers and employees alike. It rigorously pursues a philosophy of "right first time every time" as the basis of a service to exceed customer expectations.

Plate 5Hermle C800U - one of six at Weston Electric Units Ltd

The six Hermle machining centres join another 70 or more other CNC machine tools, all purchased out of earnings on a "zero borrowing" basis, and housed on three sites in the village of Foulridge just north of Colne on the Lancashire-Yorkshire border. They include five- and six-axis milling, creep feed grinding, high speed and multi-spindle machines. All are supported by state-of-the-art SPC measuring systems networked via an Ethernet ring in all the factories, which epitomises the company's commitment to total quality and continuous improvement. These advanced production facilities help Weston win major contracts not only from aerospace companies but also from the telecommunications, vacuum pump and land-based power generation sectors, many on a partnership basis. In many cases it has organised customer dedicated manufacturing cells within its business units. The six Hermle machines are installed in such a cell for blade manufacture.

The feature that caught Dave Thornton's eye was the trunnion-mounted table that enables the component to be positioned very close to the centre lines of the table axes and virtually eliminate geometric offset errors. Added to this is the rigid bed design manufactured in a highly stable polymer concrete. The result is a "very accurate machine", which subsequent tests at the Traub-Heckert Technical Centre in Brackley proved out with a batch of roots machined to accuracies under 1 micron. Another important feature for machining titanium is the 15,000rpm spindle.

John Thompson, unit manager for East Works responsible for the blade production on the Hermle machines, is equally enthusiastic. He says, "The machines perform very well and are giving us everything expected and more. The fifth axis is really paying dividends and the machine is excellent value for money".

The five-axis 600 x 450 x 450mm XYZ traverse C800U is the mid-size machine in the Hermle range of gantry type vertical machining centres. Below this is the 800 x 600 x 500mm C600 and above the C1200 with 1,200 x 900 x 500mm envelope. They are fully supported in the UK and Ireland by Traub-Heckert UK Limited, the sole distributor of Hermle products. It provides a complete service and back-up from its Technical Centre in Brackley, Northamptonshire with applications, engineering installation and commissioning, spares and a range of maintenance schemes.

Details available from: Traub-Heckert UK Limited. Tel: +44 (0) 1280 705482; Fax: +44 (0) 1280 705606.

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