Big savings and reduced lead time

A few years ago, T&R Precision Engineering in Foulridge, Lancashire, started manufacturing parts from Inconel 625 castings for the hot air side of the GE-Safran LEAP-1A turbofan that powers the Airbus A320neo family of single-aisle jets. The problem was that the work involved a labour-intensive sequence of three or four operations on separate machines.

A more efficient process route for the drilling, milling, chamfering and turning operations was therefore sought by the aerospace components supplier, which employs more than 70 people. The ideal solution identified by engineering manager Graham Gilbert involved the purchase from NCMT of an Okuma MU5000V five-axis VMC equipped with a Dutch-made Cellro 30-station pallet storage and retrieval system served by a six-axis industrial robot.

Managing director Tim Maddison says: “The improvement in production performance has been enormous across the four different LEAP-1A castings that we machine. We now produce all components in a single hit as part of a one-hour cycle, which means that eight parts are now ready the same day rather than after a week. The substantial saving in lead-time is accompanied by vastly less workpiece handling and work-in-progress on the shop floor, while at the same time fewer free-issue Inconel castings need to be supplied by our US customer at any given time, saving them money as well.”

A further benefit is a 50% reduction in total processing time compared with producing the parts in three or four separate operations. An additional saving that Maddison describes as “massive” comes from inspecting every completed part on the VMC in a 10-minute routine at the end of the cutting cycle. So instead of 100% inspection on a CMM, only one part per day now needs checking offline.

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