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New flexible factory to make parts for aircraft engines.

A fully automated, flexible manufacturing factory (FMF) that will machine and inspect parts for the company's jet aircraft engines is being erected and equipped by General Electric Company's Aircraft Engine Business Group in West Lynn, MA. Scheduled for startup in early 1986, the factory will cost an estimated $51.7 million.

Under control of a central computer, the FMF will incorporate automated storage and retrieval of raw materials, work-in-process, and finished parts. The AS/RS will be linked to production machinery by means of a nine-unit, automatic guided vehicle systems (AGVS).

The system with the largest price tag is the AS/RS. Being designed and built by the Litton Automated Manufacturing Systems Group, Florence, KY, the AS/RS will cost about $1.5 million.

Other equipment will include 20 closed-cycle turning cells, two grinding machines, three vertical machining centers, and two coordinate measuring machines. All these machines will be computer numerically controlled.

Being provided by Giddings & Lewis Machine Tool Co, Fond du Lac, WI, the turning cells (see photo) will each include a G&L NumeriLathe CNC horizontal turning center with a GE Carboloy automatic pallet handler with 400-lb capacity will serve each cell. The pallet-handlers are coming from Gilman Engineering & Mfg Co, subsidiary of G&L, Janesville, WI.

Controllers for the turning cells will be GE units equipped for automatic probing of tool tips and workpiece parameters. The units will be arranged for adaptive control, sensing of critical cutting conditions, and software interfacing with the G&L and CNC machine controllers.

Fixture-mounted workpieces will be transported from the AS/RS to the machining and inspection stations by seven platform-type units of the nine-unit AGVS. The other two vehicles will be equipped with forks for carrying 72-station, drum-type tool carousels. These will handle tooling for the turning and machining centers.

Robots mounted on the machine tools will verify tool identity by means of bar code systems, and will transfer tools between the machine-tool magazines and the drums.

The new plant will house 55,000 sq ft of manufacturing space and an additional 12,000 sq ft for support facilities. Startup will take place early next year, and the plant should be fully operational by 1988.

At that time, the plant will operate seven days a week, around the clock. The 140 employees (approximately) will work 12-hour days--four days one week, three the next.
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Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Sep 1, 1985
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