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Waterjets fabricate titanium.

Waterjets fabricate titanium

Employing needle-thin jets of water blasted at twice the speed of sound to cut one of nature's hardest substances enables Flameco Engineering Inc, Ogden, UT, to help keep America's aircraft flying.

Flameco, founded in 1968, is a precision manufacturer specializing in aircraft airframe and engine details and assemblies. The company manufactures sheet-metal assemblies of aluminum, titanium, Hastelloy, Inconel and other high-temperature alloys on many government and commercial aircraft programs.

Flameco turned to Ingersoll-Rand Waterjet Cutting Systems for two waterjets to cut periphery on a range of titanium components. One is moved manually; the other is connected to a Westinghouse five-axis Unimate 6000 robot.

Both systems run off a single intensifier (pump) and use IngersollRand's hydroabrasive option. Finely ground garnet is added to the waterjet as it exits through a specially designed sapphire nozzle with an orifice of only .005" to 0.010", at about 45,000 psi. The system has a design pressure of about 60,000 psi, and nozzles have orifice diameters ranging from 0.004 to 0.020 ". This powerful combination of concentrated force on a tiny area produces the breakthrough cutting effect.

"Titanium, by nature, is a very hard substance. It's extremely durable but lightweight," explains Jerel E Arnell, Flameco's shop superintendent. He adds, "Titanium has been used as a replacement material for aluminum in many airframe and engine parts that are subject to heavy vibration. Aluminum parts suffer metal fatigue and crack and may have to be replaced several times during the life of the aircraft. Although titanium is more costly than aluminum, many times the titanium assembly is a lifetime replacement on the aircraft, which justifies the additional cost."

Arnell says Flameco has been fabricating titanium parts for the past 20 years. "We formerly used CNC mills, profiling mills, and even bandsaws to rough cut the component before hand filing to finish the job.

"The more operator intervention, the greater the degree of difficulty in maintaining specifications. There's a lot of waste, too, and this is costly, because the material is expensive and the manufacturing processes are costly.

Arnell observed that most titanium alloys are formed at elevated temperatures from 900 F to 1750 F. Flameco currently has 14 hot presses to accommodate conventional hot forming, plus equipment for super plastic forming and diffusion bonding (SPF/DB).

The company uses several processes to form components. One is called stress forming and involves the manufacture of a tool or mold in the configuration of the part. CreeP forming, so named because it is a slow process, uses a tool's weight to form the component. Super plastic forming introduces pressurized argon gas into a stainless steel box in which a sheet of raw material is placed over a die or punch. The pressure blows the material around the die to form the shape.

After cooling, the titanium blanks are ready for trimming in the waterjet operation. The waterjet features omni-directional cutting capability and thus can drill its starting hole a fraction of an inch off the prescribed pattern before conforming to the net configurations. With waterjet cutting, there are no heat-affected areas that can cause stress corrosion in a part," Arnell notes. "With other rough cutting methods, you can't trim to net configuration because a heat-affected area might extend .05011 into the part."

Upon the completion of cutting, accomplished with ordinary tap water and garnet at the rate of about 1 gpm, parts undergo edge preparation (smoothing and polishing) before a series of inspections and cleaning operations. The garnet is collected in a settling tank, and the filtered water is drained through the plant's regular disposal system.

According to Arnell, time saving is one of the greatest benefits Flameco receives with the waterjets. "We can cut some components twice as fast, and others even faster. With friction cutting and hand dressing, we would spend 2 or 3 hr on a part, whereas the waterjet takes just 15 min. Also, waterjet cutting is excellent for short production runs, where it would be cost prohibitive to design special tools. Once the waterjet and robots are programmed, we get excellent repeatability."

For more information about waterjets, contact ingersoll-Rand Waterjet Cutting Systems, 1635 W 12th St, Baxter Springs, KS 66713. Circle 543.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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