With its Delcam software, and a new Huron MX4 twin-pallet, five-axis machining centre, Tritech was able to move from casting to direct machining of the connectors and so achieve significant weight reductions for Airbus.
With over twenty-six years’ experience in the investment casting industry, Tritech is a leading supplier of high-integrity investment castings to the most demanding of applications. The company employs 250 people across three sites; two located in Wrexham, North Wales, and one in Barnstaple, Devon. Over the last fourteen years, Tritech has also invested in an outstanding machining facility, to consolidate its position as a single-point supplier to major customers in the aerospace, defence and related industries.
As a principal supplier of machined investment castings, Tritech was approached by Airbus when the switch to fully-machined components was first considered. Airbus had calculated that considerable weight savings could be achieved if all of the in-line fuel connectors could have their wall thickness reduced to 1.0mm from 2.0mm, the minimum wall thickness needed to ensure the mechanical and metallurgical integrity of the cast components. If the components were machined from solid blocks of aerospace aluminium and the wall thicknesses controlled to a tolerance of 0.015mm, then the integrity of each connector could be maintained with the required 1.0mm wall thickness.
After the Production Engineering management team at Tritech established the key criteria and level of investment required to achieve the manufacturing objectives, Paul Beer, Engineering & Development Manager at Tritech, began the selection process. One of the potential suppliers was Fortron, the UK representative of French machine tool manufacturer, Huron.
An initial cutting trial quickly turned into a much more complex exercise when Tritech were asked to submit three samples to Airbus as ‘real parts’. Engineers at Huron worked with the support team at Delcam France to complete the programming and machining of the trial components. They were submitted to Airbus, on time, to drawing specification and within the allotted cycle time. “Inspection at Airbus described the quality of these machined components as the best that they had seen within such a short development time,” commented Mr. Beer.
Essential to the success of the project were special PowerMILL strategies developed for machining engine ports. These included “auto-tilt” functionality that gives efficient material removal while maintaining minimal clearance between the cutting tool and the part surface with no risk of rubbing or gouging. It allowed the demanding surface finish requirements to be met for the through bore on the fuel connector components.
With the process proven, the Tritech Group ordered the Huron machine, plus Delcam’s PowerMILL software, and began the move to full-scale production. Because of the demanding time constraints for the project, Delcam engineers undertook the programming of the first initial development components, at the same time as providing on-site training for the staff at Tritech. With their training complete, Tritech now has the in-house capability to develop up to six extremely complex parts in one week.