Sophisticated parts production thanks to optimal cooperation
Airbus is a name which stands for safe air travel with the highest level of comfort. Since its founding in 1970, this company has developed into an exemplary leader of technology. Today, the highest standards of practice ensure the income and wellbeing of tens of thousands of employees in Europe. Of these, 1,200 are in the Airbus factory in Varel near Oldenburg. In order to safeguard this status, Airbus continues to invest in the latest technology and production procedures. For this reason, the Airbus factory in Varel only uses the most modern machines for turned parts production. DMG’s Index G 400, WFL M 120 and M 35, Hermle C 40 U and DMF 360 Linear make the experts’ heads turn! With this high-quality machinery, the company aims to produce complex parts for the aviation industry in their entirety without transformation. According to Werner Martens, the Rotational Parts Machining sub-assemblies Manager of Airbus: “The use of the latest technology is imperative for us in order to economically produce complex parts for the aviation industry, thus being one step ahead of the competition. This is why we use technology and machines, the likes of which cannot be ordered by catalogue, to keep the production site at its optimum despite high labour costs.”
The benefits of TopSolid’Cam
Four years ago, a market analysis was carried out to find an effective 3D system, which was able to facilitate the production of components and the programs for these sophisticated machines. TopSolid’Cam made by the French manufacturer Missler Software went to the top of the ranking list as the software which met all criteria which were important for Airbus. Only this system was able to control the turning machines correctly, thus making full use of their capacity. Heinrich Hilbers, programmer of Airbus, explains: “Now, programming based on 3D models is possible. In the past, it was only possible to program from drawings. The use of TopSolid’Cam therefore means significant time-savings.”
TopSolid works on any Windows PC without specialist hardware and provides everything necessary for the construction and the finishing of sophisticated parts under one user interface. Both the CAD construction and immediate NC program production from the CAD data has been exemplary. The efficient CAM module already enables 2D, 2 ½ D, 3D, five-axis-processing and drives complex multi-function machines. The closed process chain, resulting from the exclusive 3D construction, makes it possible for Airbus to take a large step forward towards paperless aircraft production, planned for all future new types of aircraft. The data, which is produced with the help of 3D CAD, is not only used for production but also for operating CNC coordinate measuring machines to check the dimensional stability of the manufactured parts. The data of tool presetting machines is also imported directly into the integrated comprehensive tool library.
The associate interaction between the CAD and the CAM module constitutes a great benefit of the Missler Software system. This implies an immediate recalculation of the NC program if the CAD data is altered. In this way, it is ensured that only faultless parts are produced at all times.
TopSolid’Cam contains many useful and helpful customised functions. For instance, the entire processing schedule is displayed as a clear tree structure. Therefore, one can obtain an overview of all important points at a glance. The mill-turn programs, which are produced and transferred to the machine via DNC can no longer be checked for errors by a specialist in reasonable time. This is where TopSolid’Cam provides practical solutions. This system is able to simulate the machining process in advance. For this purpose, all data relevant to the machine including the matching kinematics are stored inside the system. Every movement of a table, component, grinder, etc. is taken into account in the simulation and is tested for collisions.
In this way, a technician can start up the program in a relaxed manner, with his hand on the feed potentiometer, optimising the cut values. Machine manufacturers have also recognised this problem – they equip their machines increasingly with collision monitoring. According to Heinrich Hilbers: “the M35 made by WFL doesn’t really require another trial run. In the case of a threatening collision, the machine simply stops running.”
The latest acquisition – an Index G 400 – was also the result of a parts analysis for the purpose of internal production of complex parts to further optimise costs. (elaborate and complex parts continue to be produced by Airbus without exception. Only simpler parts are produced by external suppliers.) The analysis of internally produced parts showed that only approx. 20% were produced by turning processes. The remainder was made with milling and drilling processes. As the Index G400 has its own milling heads for milling work, the choice was made quickly.
The new technical ground, which must be trodden once in a while for reasons of competitiveness makes it necessary for Airbus to invest adequate time to master a new technology. In order to exploit the possible processing advantages of the Index G400 fully and to limit the time spent on this to a minimum, a close cooperation with Moldtech was initiated for Missler Software products. As a result of Moldtech’s close cooperation with Index and Airbus, a post-processor, which was tuned into the Index G400, was developed which was able to support all turning and milling options optimally. Heinz Josef Schmitz, Head of Sales of Moldtech GmbH, declared: “The efficiency of our programmers, coupled with our wealth of practical experience accumulated over many years, enables us to offer effective and practical solutions.”
Exemplary cooperation between equal partners led to remarkable results. For instance, a significant drop in production costs was achieved for several sophisticated aircraft parts. Werner Martens adds: “As a result of the Index G 400 and TopSolid, we achieved, on average, a 30% reduction in both cost and time compared to previous production times.”
But pure technology is nothing without motivated and efficient technicians. According to Werner Martens: “Good technicians are an important precondition for innovation. The handling of these machines and the production of our sophisticated parts require good spatial awareness and the highest level of concentration. This is why we believe that a good working atmosphere is very important. People are supposed to feel good here. This is why we also consider things like friendly colours near the machines and in the factory halls. In addition to this, we place a high value on cleanliness and tidiness as these are important basic preconditions to producing quality.” This quality, created by the perfect interaction of high-quality software, hardware and human capital is the base which makes Airbus stay at the top. The Airbus A380 – the top product of the aviation sector – marks the current peak of European top technology, which has come from this Triumvirate. Others are sure to follow.