Flexible manufacturing system for Airbus wing components

Geo Kingsbury

A flexible manufacturing system (FMS) for producing small to medium-size wing components for the Airbus A330 family of long-range, wide-body jetliners has started operation at a leading aerospace subcontractor in the south of England.

The FMS incorporates five Hermle 5-axis, vertical-spindle machining centres – four C 42 Us and a larger C 52 U, the first to be installed in the UK. The HSK-A63 taper machines were supplied by Geo Kingsbury, sole agent for the German manufacturer. Each C 42 U is fitted with a 139-pocket tool magazine, while the C 52 U has a 200-tool magazine.

All machines were factory-prepared for automation with automatic doors, services through the table, and interfaces for connection to an Erowa Robot Dynamic storage system with 224 pallet locations and integrated loading and unloading stations for workpiece set-up and removal. Four sizes of pallet are accommodated: 250 mm x 250 mm, 250 mm x 300 mm, 525 mm x 400 mm, and 1,000 mm x 500 mm. Only the largest machine can accept the latter pallet size.

REM Systems, UK agent for the Swiss automation equipment manufacturer, configured the machines into the FMS with the assistance of Geo Kingsbury engineers. One C 42 U is devoted to the manufacture of titanium components, while all the other Hermles produce aluminium parts.

It is notable that the largest Hermle machining centre is fitted with Heidenhain’s latest milling control, the TNC 640. Although machining cycles in the FMS do not include turning, which the control supports, the CNC system was selected because it offers increased look-ahead and has faster block processing, so cycle times are shorter.