A highly dynamic duo
Premium AEROTEC’s Varel plant in North Germany produces highly complex machining components made of aluminium and titanium using one of Europe's most advanced pool of machines.
And this pool has recently been boosted by a new, highly dynamic duo: A Starrag ECOSPEED F 2040 FMS (Flexible Manufacturing System) consisting of two linked machining centres.
It was almost 20 years ago that Europe’s largest aircraft manufacturer fi rst took a chance on the parallel kinematics of the ECOSPEED product lines – a technology that was revolutionary at the time. Thanks to highly dynamic 5-axis simultaneous cutting with a tripod head, these machines still set the benchmark for machining large, complex aluminium structural components today, especially in the aviation industry.
The new Starrag manufacturing system complements this strategy perfectly because the Varel plant has recently switched to using linked systems. “We want to keep set-up separate from actual machining”, says Welter. “And this works extremely well with the new ECOSPEED F 2040 FMS, where we have operators work at separate set-up stations”.
The Varel plant has been pursuing digitalization for a long time now, since before the term “Industrie 4.0“ was even coined. Consequently, the company has a systematic focus on networking. “For example, we don’t have any standalone Starrag machining centers; they are all networked or linked to each other”, explains Welter. “There is also the factor of security of supply, which we must be able to offer as a manufacturer of Airbus components. This is why, next to each machine, there’s another one that can perform the same tasks”.
So why not adopt robot handling? “The FMS currently machines 40 different components, which means we would have needed 40 actuators for the workpiece holder”, explains Welter. “It also became apparent that the robot would be stationary most of the time. A cobot system would be an interesting way of facilitating set-up here. We are already robotising certain areas of small parts manufacturing, however”. It is difficult for Welter to quantify the impact that Starrag’s claim “Engineering precisely what you value” has had on his machine pool. The new investment has not been used for series production for long, he says, but its running time is 10% to 15% shorter than that of older ECOSPEED systems.
Machine availability plays an equally big part in production at Varel, and it all comes down to manufacturer support. “Overall, we are extremely happy with the service that Starrag offers compared to that of other manufacturers”, says Welter. “We’ve developed an excellent relationship with staff at Starrag over a very long period of time. In particular with regard to certain companies, where, due to rebranding, it’s not always clear who’s responsible for what”.