New heights for aerospace industry productivity

Melbourne based Sutton Tools has never been hesitant about expansion of its global markets. Its latest success in delivering significant productivity gains for a European aerospace customer is hard evidence of the company’s commitment to investment in the latest manufacturing technology.

Jeff Boyd, export manager of Sutton Tools said “Our business has been built on tackling the most challenging demands for tools, and the aerospace sector is a prime example of an industry that constantly demands sophisticated solutions. However, it’s a tough market where there is a lot of competition and success is based on the ability to prove productivity gains.”

Several aerospace component producers in France had been buying a competitor’s brand, leading the Sutton Tools European office to identify an opportunity to manufacture a superior performing solution and in doing so, win the business by delivering a 20 per cent productivity gain for the customer.

Continual demand to lower costs through productivity is a key issue for the aviation and aerospace industries, with customers emphasising the need for reliance on tool stability so they can confidently forecast their production schedules and reduce machine down time.

“We recognised that development of specific aviation industry cutting tools is critical. These tools need a longer life and faster cycle times when working with high strength materials such as titanium and inconel.

“The customer’s needs focused on solid carbide milling cutters between 12 to 20 millimetres that could deliver stable performance across a range of applications. We commenced the search for a solution, knowing the demands of the industry meant we had to really push the boundaries of our design and manufacturing technologies across our whole knowledge-base of micro-geometry, materials, coatings and micro-finishing of surfaces.

The engineering team at Sutton Tools focused on the need for a smoother, high precision surface finish which would also strengthen the adhesion of the tool coating. To achieve the high finish needed, test results were compared from grinding tools using Sutton Tools traditional ANCA ball-screw movement machines with an ANCA linear motion tool grinder.

The team also experimented with different grinding wheel grades and grinding parameters to determine the best possible finish.

After studying surface roughness of the tools, it was discovered that the output from a linear motion grinder could achieve a higher accuracy of surface finish than ball-screw machines.

To validate grinding methods, Sutton Tools used an optical 3D scanning technique to measure the surface area roughness at 100-1 magnification on the rake face and cutting edge on the tools. This 3D technique enabled the quality levels to be managed to a level of accuracy which is ranked as industry world class.

“The intensive engineering approach by our team produced a successful outcome for the customer by improving their productivity. The process has also demonstrated we have the capability of being a first-class aerospace industry supplier”, Jeff added.

While Sutton Tools operates advanced manufacturing facilities in the Netherlands and India, its Melbourne factory that has carried out the whole evaluation process and produced these application-specific end mills for the French aerospace market.


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