Aerospace original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) must strive to manufacture aircraft that can travel sustainably for longer distances and support net zero goals. They must produce quality components with tight tolerances from difficult-to-machine materials like HRSAs, while also keeping production cost-effective and error-free — but how?
This is where digitalisation and big data come into play. Here, Francis Richt, Digital Machining Business Manager at the metal cutting tool specialist Sandvik Coromant, explains how combined digital and tooling solutions will be essential for error-free production in tomorrow’s aircraft manufacturing industry.
That includes its own CoroPlus Machining Insights, CoroPlus Tool Library and Silent Tools Plus process control solutions, which enable users to monitor their machining process and secure a successful output.
The aerospace industry faces unique manufacturing challenges. The complexity of the component shapes and structures, combined with the varying tolerances required for different components can make the production process demanding and costly. The nature of aerospace — and its strict quality assurance rules — also means that component production must be error-free.
To optimise manufacturing, proper planning and preparation informed by accurate and reliable data is absolutely essential. To support aerospace OEMs, Sandvik Coromant offer several solutions to improve machining processes and to ensure quality and reliability of components.
An increasing number of industries are incorporating digital technologies into their manufacturing operations. Digital tools and the data that they can generate on key parameters can give a level of intuition and insight that traditional machining lacks. This is particularly key in heavily regulated industries such as aerospace where accuracy and efficiency are crucial at every stage.
The Sandvik Coromant CoroPlus Tool Library is a web-based software that allows users to build and manage their tool library and tool assemblies from standard data on over 900,000 items from several cutting tool manufacturers. The library is cloud based, allowing easy sharing of data and import into CAM and simulation software.
Production and machine engineers and CAM programmers can easily create tool assemblies adapted for specific machining tasks or receive specialized recommendations for each application. The tooling data is verified by each supplier and is compatible with system environments meeting ISO 13399, the international standard for cutting tool data representation and exchange.
Using the CoroPlus Tool Library can save aerospace component manufacturers valuable time by removing the need to manually find and input tool data and reduce the margin for error involved in sourcing data from different systems. The centralised platform contains all essential standard data and minimises risk, allowing manufacturers to get it right from the start.
Aerospace manufacturers can also improve their operations by using CoroPlus Connected with Silent Tools Plus. CoroPlus Connected enables process automation driven by data to increase efficiency and optimize output quality. This solution is particularly effective in complex processes such as production of jet engine components and landing gear, where visualisation is difficult and operators may struggle to accurately see inside components due to their complicated structures or challenging materials.
Silent Tools Plus adaptors are equipped with sensors which can measure important parameters such as height, temperature and load and transmit this data automatically to the machine, minimizing tooling set up and improving operator control when the tool is in cut.
Ensuring that tools are correctly set up and working to appropriate loads and measurements can effectively minimize downtime and wastage of resources. This is particularly important in the aerospace industry, where accuracy is key in preventing the need to scrap partly machined components in exotic, costly materials. Silent Tools Plus also supports safety and component security and increased cycle times, leading to overall productivity gains and protection of assets and output.
To improve operational efficiency and overall equipment effectiveness in complex aerospace manufacturing processes, reliable collection and analysis of data is essential. CoroPlus Machining Insights offers engineers and operators a centralised oversight of machine data, allowing them to visualize the process from start to finish.
While manual data collection is slow and prone to error that aerospace engineers must avoid, the cloud-based system collects and stores data from all machines and tools for total operational transparency. Real-time and historical reports let engineers see machine and tool use, errors and performance, giving insights into areas for improvement and process optimization. This can improve overall productivity and highlight risk areas in manufacturing.
CoroPlus Machining Insights is easy to integrate into a machine shop and can easily scaled up and down as it is a software-based product. As well as giving the user a full view of the machine utilisation and predictive maintenance needs, the user can also log in to visualize several sites off site. This gives engineers more control over production and can allow for predictive maintenance and straightforward diagnosis of issues that may negatively impact manufacturing.
Digitalisation in the aerospace industry can certainly offer significant benefits in production quality, but sustainability is another important concern. Sandvik Coromant’s digital technologies can offer tool recommendations optimized for specific tasks which consume less power overall. Establishing connectivity between machines also contributes to an overall more efficient operation, with reduced machining times and faster cycles.
These digital solutions are just the beginning when it comes to combining automation with tooling for the aerospace industry. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are paving the way for new technologies to blend sophisticated software algorithms with decades of specialised machining knowledge. Sandvik Coromant’s technologies aim to drive automation and improve process productivity and sustainability. In processes which must be accurate, precise, and error free, digitalisation and data-driven decision making can yield financial savings and productivity gains.