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Half-off sale: a shop specializing in aviation components reduced production cycle time by up to 50 percent by incorporating the right measurement software.

A top-tier supplier to Sikorsky Aircraft, Boeing, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is using on-machine probing capabilities, aided by Renishaw's Productivity+ software, to reduce production cycle times by as much as 50 percent. Alp Aviation, Eskisehir, Turkey, is the sole supplier of tail rotor drive shaft assemblies to Sikorsky for the S70 Seahawk, S70 Blackhawk, S92, and S76 helicopters. Sikorsky was so impressed with Alp's performance that it took a 50 percent stake in the business in 1999. Alp also supplies parts for the Boeing 737.

Implementation of Renishaw's Productivity+ software lets Alp create and test routines in a CAM environment for Renishaw probes fitted to all 50 of its machining centers. Progressive application of machine probing makes possible faster, easier setups, simpler fixtures, in-process checks, and compensations before final machining passes, and even final buy-off inspection by the machine tool.

50 Percent Off

"We looked at the whole production cycle time and in some cases were able to reduce it by up to 50 percent," Cenk Akin, engineering team Leader at Alp, said.

"The Productivity+ software and Renishaw's part-setting probes made this possible. The benefits include time and cost savings. We can trust the process since it removes any chance of machine operator error. Process repeatability has improved and we've achieved a higher level of gauge R&R results by using probes, with less than one micron repeatability."


When a new part is introduced at Alp, a production engineer is assigned to the part and is responsible for developing all the processes throughout the production cycle. CAD data is sent to the engineer by the customer, and a cutting process, including cutting tool selection, is prepared using a Unigraphics CAM system. The NC part program that Unigraphics produces is loaded into the Renishaw Productivity+ package where the engineer adds probing cycles.

The probing cycle first is run as a simulation on a PC, discovering any errors before it goes to the machine tool.

"Productivity+ makes it easier to prove-out the process before going to the machine," Akin said. "We lose money if the machine is used to test processes rather than producing saleable parts."

The finished program is loaded onto the appropriate machine via the DNC system and one test part is produced to verify the machining and probing program before full production begins.

Alp purchased the software in July 2007, to reduce process development time. The company's working environment is virtually paperless and highly automated, so they couldn't afford manual programming of the probing routines, Akin said.

Productivity+ uses a GUI interface for a user-friendly programming environment. Alp engineers pick features from the CAD model, or choose parameters from dialog boxes, to define the program.

Menu Picks

Prismatic features can be selected from CAD with a click-and-capture. Menus remove the need for probing macro command knowledge, which vary by machine controller, and are a time-consuming way to produce routines.

When the program is complete, the programmer selects the required post-processor and the system generates the output, ready for loading into the machine.

Alp has used Renishaw part-setting spindle-mounted probes for years, but mostly for setup. All new machines are delivered with probe systems fitted. Prior to the Renishaw probes, the operator would manually align the part on the table, or the shop would order a special, and expensive, fixture made for every component variation. Now, operators use simple clamping and machines are programmed to use the probe to locate the part.

The drive to speed and simplify setup is important to Alp to reduce production cycle times and maximize flexibility for parts that have many variants. While some batches can run on a machine for a year, other machines change batches two or three times a day with only a few components in each batch.


Between using Renishaw probing to shorten setups, and pallet changing systems to load components while the previous part is being machined, Alp is close to reaching their goal of zero setup times.

Probing is used for process control to check parts before finishing cuts are made. The probing routines update machine offsets. Previously, the company relied on the operator, so the likelihood of errors was higher.

Productivity+-generated programs let the probe inspect the part on the machine once cutting is finished. This eliminates post-process quality checks for faster part throughput and reduced work-in-process inventory.

"This technology--the Renishaw probe systems and Productivity+ software--are critical components to our long-term business plan," Senay I'dil, general manager of Alp, said. "We view it as a lower-cost investment essential to run our machines as efficiently as possible." Renishaw, Inc.

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Title Annotation:INSPECTION
Publication:Modern Applications News
Article Type:Cover story
Date:May 1, 2009
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