The aerospace industry is likely to experience stronger growth in 2017 following multiple years of positive but subdued rate of growth according to a recent report by Deloitte who also forecast sector revenues will likely grow by about 2.0 per cent this year.
With the news that the Government is to pump £4.7bn into high-tech sectors such as aerospace as well as the announcement of an extra runway to be built at Heathrow Airport, the industry is set to go from strength to strength.
This strong demand for aircraft cascades through to strong demand for engines, control gear, numerous tier one and two suppliers and throughout the supply chain. Manufacturers need to be ready for the potential rise in demand for components and ready to meet the high quality and cleanliness standards required by the sector.
Innovation is key to this growing success and that is where MecWash and its proven aqueous cleaning systems can ensure makers of new components are able to get their own regime off to a flying start.
The Tewkesbury-based company already enjoys a long-standing relationship with the aerospace sector and has provided around 25 MecWash aqueous cleaning systems over the years to one particular market leader at their sites in the UK, a number of them bespoke for their needs because they were unable to find any existing suitable products on the market.
This particular customer manufactures engine-related components such as bearing housings and blades and had a very specific cleaning requirement for turbine blades used in civil and defence aircraft. These blades are made of nickel based super alloys and the casting media used in the manufacturing process must be completely removed before the blades are used in an engine assembly.
John Pattison, managing director at MecWash, explains: “We designed and built a special ‘BladeWash’ machine for the company which delivered such good results that a further three were soon installed. The wash process used here features a high flow rate designed for flushing components. The components are held in a very confined wash chamber, and water is pumped through and around the components at 1000-1800 litres per minute (depending on the component and fixturing) attaining very high speeds. This provides a very powerful cleaning effect and a highly efficient rate of contaminant removal.”
The Super Maxi was also designed specially for the same company to meet a very specific cleaning requirement for bearing housing engine components used in civil and defence aircraft.
These housings are made of super alloys and the oil and swarf contamination created in the manufacturing process must be completely removed before the bearing housings are used in an engine assembly. Although MecWash is used to precision cleaning requirements, it is unusual to have such high cleanliness specifications for components almost a metre in diameter.
The challenge in this particular application was adequately flushing out the internal galleries, channels and tubes. This was overcome by incorporating dedicated jetting into the design of the bespoke machine, so that jets rotated with the component, continuously spraying wash solution into key contamination traps, flushing them clean.
John adds: “Research led to MecWash designing and building its largest machine to date, based on existing designs and uprated to handle the large component size and heavier weights. The first ‘SuperMaxi’ was born and continuously meets the company’s stringent cleanliness specification.”
MecWash’s aqueous cleaning systems are already helping customers such as UTC Actuation Systems and Selex ensure the parts they supply to the aerospace sector meet the very exacting standards of cleanliness the sector demands.
UTC has Midi systems installed at their sites in the UK, Germany, Poland, Indonesia and Singapore showing the long-standing relationship MecWash enjoys with the company that has enabled them to remove no less than 24 solvent degreasing stations from their premises leading to greater efficiencies.
Mark Binfield, Operations Manager (Special Process) at UTC Actuation Systems, says: “Typical products that go through the system are gears and rotary actuators manufactured from high strength steel which can present particular corrosion considerations and are thus coated with a suitable inhibitor. It is the removal of this that is the prime function of the MecWash installation.”
SELEX (now part of Leonardo MW Ltd), one of the world’s leading manufacturers of defence electronic systems, enhanced its UK operational and environmental performance with the installation of a Midi component cleaning station from MecWash at their Basildon premises.
This facility acts as a focus for precision components used at four locations around the UK – Luton, Edinburgh and Portsmouth as well as Basildon – the Midi now acts as the final cleaning stage for the vast majority of manufactured components.
Mel South, Manufacturing Manager at SELEX says: “The wide range of components – mostly aluminium – that we manufacture in the UK calls for the cleaning facility to be highly versatile. A range of stainless steel baskets with nylon dividers, nylon baskets or dedicated fixtures measuring up to half a metre in length can all be accommodated by the MecWash cleaning system. Importantly, the single unit is able to provide high quality cleaning on both standard components and also highly complex, thin wall, investment castings.
“The significant volume of solvents, which were being used across the manufacturing processes in the UK, have been reduced now in line with statutory requirements, whilst the quality of the cleaning process is still of the highest order as a result of the MecWash technology,” he says.
Tewkesbury-based MecWash Systems Ltd has been working with firms supplying the aerospace sector for many years and prides itself on offering them peace of mind that all of the components they supply will meet the highest possible cleanliness standards and keep reject rates to a minimum, thus reducing production costs.
John Pattison adds: “The aerospace sector is set for rapid growth thanks to the announcement by the Chancellor that high-tech industries are to get a cash injection and this is fantastic news for component makers.
“But these companies will need to ensure their processes are efficient and can cope with the extra demand for components as well as meeting stringent cleanliness targets and that is where our systems come into their own.
“We pride ourselves on innovation and have already created many new bespoke systems for use by aerospace component makers so if any manufacturer has a cleaning need they cannot meet I would urge them to draw on our many years of expertise,” he added.