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Chengdu Aerospace: Industry 4.0 at its finest

While others are still romanticising Industry 4.0, the Swiss-based Starrag Group is already realising digitally networked production in Southwest China.

With a completion date of summer 2019, six ECOSPEED F 2060 are to be installed at Chengdu Aerospace's aircraft factory in China to create one of the most productive and efficient plants in the world. The plant will be used for the complete processing of aluminium structural components.

A high level of investment is being made in the Chinese aviation industry: The industry plans to build over 1,900 new aircraft by until 2025 at a total cost of around 300 billion US dollars and is investing heavily in new production technology.

Chengdu Aerospace Plane Aviation Machinery Equipment Ltd. has now ordered a digitally networked flexible manufacturing system (FMS) with cell controllers from the Starrag Group. Work will take place between January 2018 and summer 2019 to install an FMS comprising six ECOSPEED F 2060 and a total of 20 pallets, two set-up stations, a transfer car and 17 storage locations. The ECOSPEED machining centres are characterised by 120-kW high-performance spindles (30,000 rpm), a pallet size of 6,000 mm x 2,000 mm and Sprint Z3 parallel kinematic machining heads. Thanks to its unique patented kinematic process, the Sprint Z3 head greatly exceeds the position speed of a multi-axis milling head.

In addition to standard components such as angular milling and drilling heads, the FMS also contains two new highlights: The Sonic Eye measuring head significantly reduces the effort required to take measurements during the production of structural components which require documentation. The ultrasonically measured data is wirelessly transmitted via radio antenna to the CNC, which also controls the use of the Sonic Eye.

The CNC program ECO-TRIM also saves time and money as the operator can quickly check the machine and compensate for any deviations as necessary. A clearly saving of time allowed the automatic calibration. This program takes a fully automatic check of the current status of the machine and generate a log with a time stamp. This log is then saved in the CNC as an "electronic fingerprint".

Other technical details also contribute to making the FMS a complete system that is unique for its type: A central plant supplies all six machines with coolant and a central collection system with silo and briquette presses takes care of chip extraction. A robot magazine located above the FMS features 1,500 slots to supply the machines with tools from a central location. The integrated workpiece washing system ensures that components remain clean.

Such projects are rare today and even then are usually only pilot projects during "green field" development of a new factory. Thanks to a large number of successfully handled large projects, for example in the global airline industry, the Starrag Group can provide this type of customised digital manufacturing solutions with a high level of process reliability almost "off the shelf". "We have laid the foundations for Industry 4.0 with our own 'Starrag Integrated Production System' (IPS) and the cell controller technology that has been developed in house", says Walter Borsch, CEO of the Starrag Group. "With our digitalisation solutions, we can provide all of the typical customer requirements, such as higher productivity, greater safety and high levels of growth".

Interested parties learned more about Industry 4.0 at its finest at the CIMT China International Machine Tool Show in Beijing in April 2017. The Starrag Group showed the Sprint Z3 parallel kinematic machining head. This can now also be driven by a newly developed 150-kW spindle, which—when compared to the figures achieved using the 120-kW spindle increases the machining performance when processing high-strength aluminium by 25% to 12 l/min.

Press release issued by Starrag Group Holding AG on April 27, 2017


 Contact details from our directory:
Starrag Group Holding AG Milling, Cutting Tools
Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Co. Ltd. Airframer


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