A big machine for a big part

  • 17-Feb-2009 05:04 EST

Weaver has decided to expand the use of its MAG to other parts and add another one to take on even more work.

Weaver Manufacturing is no stranger to airframe component manufacturing challenges. Founded in 1942, the Kansas company has established a solid reputation as an industry leader in high-quality, close-tolerance machined parts, as well as tooling and prototype work, and has won several awards from Boeing, Cessna Aircraft, Goodrich, Spirit Aerosystems, and other aerospace leaders. The company realized, however, that its capabilities were limited.

“We wanted to bid on manufacturing a large structural aerospace component that required a huge amount of aluminum hog-out and tight accuracies, where success hinged on speed,” said David May, Vice President of Operations at Weaver. “That’s when we attended a seminar at Makino’s facility in Mason, OH, and saw the MAG. We knew the MAG could put us in a more unique manufacturing position and, more importantly, help facilitate future growth by adding a powerful capability to our company.”

Weaver specializes in producing structural bulkheads, airframe parts, window frames, and support beams. It also specializes in high-precision hog-outs of aluminum components. It has 110 employees at its two Wichita locations.

The large component referred to above is an aerospace part for a Tier 1 structural assembler of defense and commercial applications. It requires a 2000-lb aluminum billet to be milled down to about 25 lb, holding a ±0.005-in tolerance on the walls and floors. The final part is 34 in wide by 95 in long.

Previous manufacturers’ attempts at the part had used outdated technologies, such as gantry mills. These technologies were not only slow but also required many setups and had inherent accuracy problems. Weaver knew this wasn’t an option.

“All value-added content had to be done on the machine to make this job profitable,” said Derek Shriver, Director of Operations Support, Weaver. “We quickly realized the potential of the MAG3 and how it could produce this part more efficiently than any other machine we’d seen.” The job provided an opportunity for Weaver to expand its capabilities into large, complex parts machined at high speeds.

A five-axis horizontal machining center, the MAG3 is specifically designed for high-productivity machining of complex aluminum monolithic parts for the aerospace industry. It has X-Y-Z travels of 118.1 x 59.1 x 39.4 in with a 9.8-ft X-travel, and it can handle a payload up to 6600 lb. It is equipped with a high-speed, 107-hp, core-cooled spindle.

“The 30,000-rpm spindle and fast feed rate were essential to the success of this project,” said Chris Vannover, Weaver’s Production Manager. “We’re removing over 1900 lb of aluminum, so it’s got to move fast to make the process efficient. And the bed size was perfect for this part—it takes up about three-quarters of it.”

In addition to speed, limiting setups was also important. “Because of the MAG’s unique rotary spindle head, we were able to reduce setups from seven to two, another essential component in reducing the cycle time of the project,” added Vannover.

The MAG3 is designed with the C-axis behind an A-axis nutating head. This allows the tool to orient itself toward any position within a hemisphere. The ±110° movement of the A-axis is enhanced by the infinite degree of movement capability of the C-axis, providing for exceptional machining flexibility.

In the final bid, Weaver was able to beat the previous manufacturer of the part handily. The previous manufacturer had produced the part in 16 h in seven positions. Weaver, using the MAG3, was able to produce it in 2 h and with two positions.

When Weaver purchased the MAG, it was one of the first MAG3 machines released in the U.S. market.

“We knew a machine this new and this different would have a few growing pains, so we were glad to have a machine builder who could not only show us how to use it but also how to best apply the part and high-speed machining techniques to the machine,” said May.

Due to the part’s success, Weaver has decided to expand the use of its MAG to other parts and add another MAG3 to take on even more work.

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