South Africa’s leading manufacturer of parts and assemblies for production lines of some of the world’s major aerospace manufacturers, as well as a supplier of aircraft interior systems, has recently commissioned a new state-of-the-art CMS Antares 5-axis CNC machining center. The machine will be used initially to machine complex carbon fibre components for the company’s aerospace customers, although Aerosud Aviation plans to rollout the facility to supply machining operations on a subcontract basis to all sectors of the composite industry, as well as have the ability to machine aluminium blocks for civil and military aviation engineering projects that the company engages in.
The machine will form the basis of a new structural composite facility that Aerosud Aviation is setting up at its aeronautical engineering and manufacturing headquarters just outside Pretoria, Gauteng.
Aerosud Aviation has recently commissioned a state-of-the-art CMS Antares 5-axis CNC machining center supplied by PBS Machine Tools
In 2018 Aerosud Aviation announced at the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition that it was offering its business solutions capabilities to other companies. This formed part of the company’s new Growth Strategy, stated Aerosud Aviation MD Johan Steyn.
Aerosud’s new business solutions offering was focused on helping companies implement Industry 4.0 technologies. These included the Internet of Things, complex process control, robotics, enterprise resource planning, and product lifecycle management. This offering would not be restricted to the aerospace sector but would also be made available to other high-technology industries, assured Steyn.
The company has also made major investments – totalling more than €3 million over the past three years – in upgrading its technology and expanding its production capacity. This included the purchase of a new structural composite technology in 2015, which is now the property of Aerosud Technology Solutions.
The CMS Antares 5-axis CNC machining center
The Italian manufactured CMS Antares machine was supplied as part of a complete package including the machine tool, laser tool setting and axes requalification, a Renishaw RMP60 electronic measuring probe, machine specific CAM software, a dust extraction system and tooling. Existing programming software will be used to drive the CMS Antares and current shrink-fit toolholders will be used to clamp the tooling within the machine spindle.
The 5-axis machine has been supplied with a higher spec rpm than what is normally fitted to the machine, on Aerosud Aviation’s request. The CMS 15kW, 24 000rpm, HSK-F63 electro-spindle allows the company to have enough power for aluminium operation while keeping the ability to drill smaller holes with smaller tools
Jigs and fixtures to be used on the CMS Antares will be made by Aerosud Aviation.
All these items are vital in making this such a successful installation. Once machined, components are measured using a portable co-ordinate measuring arm to ensure they comply with the given tolerances and meet customer requirement.
CMS advised on all elements of the package to provide Aerosud Aviation with a complete and fully-integrated system.
Alroy Savides of PBS Machine Tools has been pivotal in putting the project together and completing the installation and handover.
“The table supplied with this machine is customised. This has been done so as to afford Aerosud Aviation the ability to machine current components as well as aluminium blocks for future aviation engineering projects that the company engages in,” explained Savides.
“We have also supplied the machine with a higher spec rpm than what is normally fitted to the machine, again on Aerosud Aviation’s request. The CMS 15kW, 24 000rpm, HSK-F63 electro-spindle allows the company to have enough power for aluminium operation while keeping the ability to drill smaller holes with smaller tools. These smaller operations require higher rpms, particularly if you are working with composite materials,” continued Savides.
Zero Point Clamping – The part location software and touch probe are used to accurately identify the physical location of the component once it has been placed in the machine fixture
“CMS has installed many Antares machine centers globally in the aerospace and automotive sectors, the machine is highly flexible and is used typically for high speed machining of patterns and moulds in aluminium and non-ferrous materials as well as for trimming or machining complex composite components. The Antares itself has been designed specifically by CMS to cope with the demands of operating in such a harsh environment with the capability of meeting the accuracy and repeatability required in these sectors. It has many features built in to ensure performance is maintained and its long-term reliability is preserved.”
“Support for the machine comes from PBS’ factory trained engineers as well as remotely through CMS connect software from CMS in Italy where a number of application and service engineers are employed specifically to carry out this function.”
Zero Point Clamping
“The part location software and touch probe are used to accurately identify the physical location of the component once it has been placed in the machine fixture. The software automatically updates the control system for 5-axis alignment and this has drastically reduced part set-up times. This means no manual intervention and the ability to have multiple set-ups the one machine. The part is orientated and clamped to allow all machining operations to be completed in one setting as well as to compensate for twist in the component and orientate the programme to ensure best fit through the centre line of the part.”
The Italian manufactured CMS Antares machine was supplied as part of a complete package including the machine tool, laser tool setting and axes requalification, a Renishaw RMP60 electronic measuring probe, machine specific CAM software, a dust extraction system and tooling
“The software and probe also identify the surface of the workpiece to allow countersunk drill holes and machined detail on the component surface to meet the required depth and tolerances.”
“The tooling used to cut the carbon fibre is a mixture of PCD and carbide and has been designed specifically for this type of application with the correct tool geometry to allow the machine to optimise the cutting speed, delivering good surface finish, accuracy and high integrity of the part.”
“A good dust extraction is a pre-requisite when machining carbon-based materials. The system supplied is specific to the machine and has been supplied by a CMS partner company that has many years of experience together with CMS in supplying this type of equipment. The machine has a fully enclosed roof system ensuring all debris is contained within the work envelope of the machine. The extraction unit ensures all airborne particles are extracted during the machining process to maintain a clean and safe working environment for the machine operator and his colleagues as well as the environment.”
Aerosud Aviation’s growth and upgrade strategy
“We have been working on developing new structural carbon fibres. The IP from this forms part of our growth strategy to win more parts and assemblies contracts within the aeronautical industry,” explained Aerosud Aviation Process Development Engineer Bertus van As.
Hollowed out structural components with integrity are in demand in the aviation industry so as to reduce weight and emissions. The CMS Antares 5-axis machine will mainly be used for trimming or machining complex composite components
“Hollowed out structural components with integrity are in demand in the industry so as to reduce weight and emissions. We are well connected but still have to prove that we have the know-how.”
“The installation of this CMS Antares machine will enable us to comply with our integrated risk capacity and decommission older machines. It is also one of the first of many capital investments that Aerosud Aviation is making on the equipment side.”
Aerosud Aviation now supplies more than 5 000 parts per month to Boeing, sent to 14 different production sites. It also sent one shipset a month of parts and aerostructures to Airbus Defence and Space for the A400M military airlifter programme. It also recently completed the quality certification of the company’s structural composite facility.
The company has also made a significant investment in a fully automated robotic welding facility. This had resulted in US aerostructures major Spirit Aerosystems extending its contract with Aerosud for another five years.
The CMS Antares 5-axis machine is highly flexible and is used typically for high speed machining of patterns and moulds in aluminium and non-ferrous materials as well as for trimming or machining complex composite components
Additionally, the company has successfully increased its production capacity for parts for the Airbus A320 airliner family. These parts were supplied to Safran Electrical Power, for integration with other parts, the resulting components then being sent to Airbus. Aerosud had successfully met the production rate test of more than 60 shipsets per month.
Aerosud Aviation has also supplied parts destined for the Airbus A380 through Safran, although this production rate has remained stable. The South African company had recently delivered its first production parts for a new Airbus A350 contract.
Aerosud Aviation is one of two companies in the Aerosud Holdings group, the other being Aerosud Technology Solutions.