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Blum Novotest wins prestigious aerospace award

Market leading metrology and measurement device manufacturer Blum Novotest is delighted to announce that it is part of a team that has won a prestigious Chairman's Award from globally renowned BAE Systems.

BAE Systems has awarded a team at its Samlesbury plant that includes BAE Systems and Blum Novotest employees the award after the German measuring and testing technology specialist reduced cycle times by over 40% on a number of production components for the Typhoon aircraft.

The Samlesbury facility near Preston is home to some of the most advanced aerospace manufacturing and assembly technologies in the world, providing manufacturing and support services to internationally recognised aircraft programs including the Eurofighter Typhoon and the F35-Lightning II. To continue its provision of advanced manufacturing services for the aerospace sector, the company embarked on a project to replace an ageing machining centre with new technology. During this replacement program, BAE Systems engineers were tasked with transferring components and the corresponding fixtures to a newer Boko INF2 machining centre.

Transfer of tight tolerance, high specification components highlighted probing system issues, as BAE Systems' Specialist Facilities Engineer, Mr Ged Coulton comments: "Initial identified solutions had the potential to increase costs and maintenance issues whilst reducing cycle times. A review of the market led us to developing a new system with Blum Novotest."

"The components we wanted to transfer are critical to the aircraft, so the project was of the utmost importance. The complete project took us four months to complete due to its complexity and the need to maintain production using the existing method. However, the length of the project was more than justified by the complexity and accuracy demands of the project," continues Mr Coulton.

The parts being transferred to the Boko are a 360mm long by 33mm wide elongated tablet shape. Each component requires pocket machining that leaves a 1mm wall thickness on the periphery. The wall tolerances are critical, as the mating part sits inside the pocket prior to electro welding. Any deviations in the tolerance could result in a potential weld failure – an unacceptable element on a critical aerospace component.

Blum Creates the Solution

To prevent any potential failure, the Blum TC54-10 touch probe introduced to BAE Systems measures 834 points around the component. Demonstrating the critical nature of the component, the probe measures the part in 1mm increments and every two degrees on the radius, effectively profiling each individual part. The time consuming process has to individually profile each component to ensure the following and corresponding part mates correctly with its predecessor. To ensure this, the Blum probe collects the data from the 834 perimeter points and transfers the data to a Blum IC56 infra red receiver that sits within the Boko machine. The IC56 receiver transmits the data points to the Heidenhain control, which captures the axis positions and generates the part program automatically. Once the part is machined, the control system replicates program parameters as a mirror to the previous part. This data is then used to machine the opposite hand part, effectively making each pair of parts unique.

Cutting Cycle Times

The Blum TC54-10 touch probe is capable of measuring components at a feed rate of up to 3m/min. The previous system could only measure the points at a rate of 300mm/min; this ensures the Blum system significantly reduces the profiling time of the parts. With a component tolerance of +/- 5microns, the Blum TC54-10 delivers impeccable accuracy levels with its ability to work to a 1micron tolerance band, ensuring all parts are well within the required levels. The Blum probe also improves component accuracy and quality levels compared to the previous probe, credit to its patented Shark 360 technology. The Shark 360 system incorporated into the TC54 probe optically triggers the measurement signal whereas competitors utilise a 3-electrode trigger system.

For BAE Systems, this improves accuracy levels and speed of measurement on the radial ends of the component, as the Shark system deflects in a linear direction only. The previous system deflected in a number of axis directions reducing the accuracy level and measuring speed considerably.

As Mr Coulton continues: "This measurement procedure is an extremely innovative process that is also a critical production element. There is no doubt that we are one of the first companies to actually use a probe to profile parts in order to create a part program as opposed to just measure the part. The fact that Blum have worked with us to achieve this goal, whilst reducing our cycle times by over 40% is why they have won the award."

The Award

The BAE Systems Chairman's Awards acknowledge the efforts and achievements of BAE Systems employees, partners and customers in delivering benchmark performance and furthering the company's values and recognise excellence in the successful exploitation of innovative ideas, the transfer of best practice and in delivering outstanding support to the customer. As Mr Coulton concludes: "I nominated an internal team and Blum for the Chairman's Award for a number of reasons: firstly, they provided a solution to a major production issue, and secondly, Blum delivered an innovative and technical solution that reduced cycle times by over 40%, which has improved our productivity drastically. Thirdly, they improved the process capability and reliability by improving the accuracy and delivering a solution that can communicate directly with the Heidenhain control panel. Added to all this, Blum have provided exceptional service and support and answered all our technical queries throughout the implementation of the project. Blum support and assistance as part of this team effort fully deserved the Bronze award, which is an extremely prestigious award from one of the world's most technically advanced manufacturing companies. We are delighted with the system and we will be looking at other manufacturing processes that could benefit from introducing Blum's technology."

Press release issued by Blum-Novotest GmbH on March 15, 2011


 Contact details from our directory:
Blum-Novotest GmbH Precision Measurement Equipment, Optical Measurement Equipment
BAE Systems plc Airframer


 Related aircraft programs:
Eurofighter Typhoon


 Related directory sectors:
Inspection Equipment

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