Aerospace has been a key focus segment for Sandvik Coromant for a number of years. With the establishment of its first aerospace application center in 2002, the company says it turned its attention toward finding ways to ensure that each customer had the tools to not only keep pace with the rapidly advancing industry but also to take advantage of the latest technology on the market. The company now has three aerospace application centers, one each in the U.S., U.K., and Sweden.
"Developing total solutions for aerospace requires more than an upgrade of existing tools and inserts," said Chris Mills, the company’s Project Manager for Aerospace Development. "Distinct from other industry segments such as automotive, aerospace manufacturing is a closed process that requires companies constantly work with a strong focus on each customer's success. Doing so enables the company to develop optimized tooling solutions that include the spindle interface, tools that fit the component shape, programming techniques, grades and geometries, and surface integrity."
To achieve optimal results, application specialists at Sandvik Coromant's Aerospace Application Centers develop new solutions in four core areas of competence:
• Machinability of materials—a good understanding of the machinability of unique materials such as Inconel and titanium allows the company to develop optimized cutting geometries and grades.
• Component geometry—the same feature can exist on various components in various materials, which allows tooling solutions and strategies to be developed for standard features, rather than just components. By splitting components into materials and then into features, Sandvik Coromant is learning the best ways to machine features and materials, including thin walls or geometrical restrictions.
• Machine and programming capabilities—tooling solutions are developed that can be operated on the most advanced machine tools with the latest CAM programming, from five-axes machining to high-pressure-coolant capabilities.
• Surface integrity—a solid understanding of residual stress and deformation depth to ensure that a component is in optimized condition after machining.
The company recently announced that it would release an Aerospace Engine Solutions Package in March.
"Sandvik Coromant's Aerospace Engine Solutions package features five products formerly available only as customized tools for aerospace customers,” said Mills. “The package will help eradicate the need for special tools within the aerospace industry. However, we do not believe that the package will result in the instant adoption of new processes. With expensive components and long processing times, many manufacturers prefer to make changes only when buying new machines or making drastic changes to processes. But by releasing these products as one package, Sandvik Coromant is making it easier on aerospace customers to make a long-term investment in complete tooling solutions fully equipped with the latest technology.
“This shows what a big focus aerospace is for us. We are taking a step further back in the process to develop very dedicated solutions for the aerospace industry—not just a grade or geometry, but a complete system of solutions that fit customer requirements."
No competitor is making the drive to standardize special tools for the aerospace industry, said Mills. “Not only do [our competitors] not have the application centers to develop solutions, but they also lack strong platforms like CoroCut, Coromant Capto, and High Pressure Coolant to build them on.”
The aerospace package will contain five standard products tailored to support the aerospace engine industry:
• GC1115—a new PVD-coated grade for high-temperature alloys offers improved toughness and good wear resistance (PVD stands for physical vapor deposition).
• CoroCut angled inserts—a complete and stable grooving system for aerospace uses 24 standard articles in grade GC1115 to provide access to some of the most complex features in disc, shaft, and casing manufacturing.
• SL70—the new modular serration lock and oval blade coupling combines with Coromant Capto to provide good accessibility and stability. The carbide solutions come equipped with high-pressure coolant nozzles and are available for CoroCut, ceramic RCGX, and carbide RCMT.
• CoroMill Plura conical ball nose end mills—12 standard articles with radii and taper options are suitable for the five-axis machining of titanium blisk and impellor turbo part.
• CoroMill 316—the new solid carbide with exchangeable head coupling has diameter and radii options required for typical features such as scallop milling on discs, casings, and shafts.
Asked how much the aerospace package will account for in terms of future sales, Mills said: “These products are a gateway to applying standard solutions that we already have and cannot be looked at in isolation. Take the SL70, for example. If we implement it, we also have to consider the inserts. Since we are not releasing new inserts to fit in the SL70, it is difficult to quantify.
“These products were not developed to be cash cows. What we're doing here is focusing on the tricky problems in aerospace manufacturing and supplying complete solutions. The goal of this package is to eradicate the need for special tools, as well as problems that currently exist in part processing. From both our and the customer's points of view, we would rather be selling standard tools and they would rather be buying them. It makes us a better partner and a more natural choice when they are ready to equip a new machine. We already have Coromant Capto, we already have High Pressure Coolant. Now we have the last part of the puzzle as well. However, we should also note that in aerospace, things do not change quickly. This will be focused on new components, machines, and processes that are being implemented. It's not the case that people just swap over that quickly in aerospace.”
Mills noted that the aerospace industry is not immune from the current economic woes. However, “there is a two- to three-year backlog in the order books. Though the industry is not like automotive, where people stop buying cars and the bottom falls out, we do expect a small downturn in the coming years. These are optimized, cost-effective solutions that will significantly reduce lead times. When a product isn't on the shelf, manufacturers have to wait six to eight weeks for delivery. The products in the package will allow them to be more reactive.”
It amounts to a long-term transition for a long-term investment, according to Mills. “To be successful in aerospace, Sandvik Coromant must be very committed to the long term. From developing complete tooling solutions to collaborating with machine tool builders at the forefront of the metal-cutting industry, we are prepared to do what it takes to help each aerospace customer achieve success.”