Airbus delivered a new company record of 718 aircraft to 85 customers in 2017, its 15th consecutive year of growth. Deliveries were more than 4% higher than the previous record – 688 – in 2016. The 2017 total comprises: 558 A320 family (181 were A320neo – an increase of 166% from 2016); 67 A330s; 78 A350 XWBs (up by nearly 60% from 2016); and 15 A380s. Airbus booked 1,109 net orders from 44 customers. At the end of 2017, Airbus’ overall backlog stood at 7,265 aircraft valued at $1.059 trillion at list prices.
Airbus is on track to achieve a 60-per-month build rate on the A320 family by mid-2019 and 10 per month for the A350 XWB by the end of 2018.
Embraer delivered 210 jets in 2017: 101 commercial aircraft and 109 executive jets (72 light and 37 large), meeting the year’s delivery outlook of 97 to 102 commercial jets, 70 to 80 light business jets, and 35 to 45 large business jets. At the end of 2017, the firm order backlog was valued at $18.3 billion. www.embraer.com
Year-end results for Bombardier were not available at press time, but in its Q3 report, the company expected to reach deliveries of 50 regional jets and turboprops and approximately 135 business jets in 2017. Order backlog stood at 433 commercial aircraft and $14.5 billion worth of business aircraft as of Sept. 30, 2017. www.bombardier.com
Boeing delivered 763 aircraft in 2017 – more commercial airplanes than any manufacturer for the sixth consecutive year – driven by output of 737 and 787 jets. The company grew its backlog with 71 customers placing 912 net orders valued at $134.8 billion at list prices. The total extends Boeing’s backlog to a record 5,864 airplanes at the end of 2017, equal to about seven years of production.
Boeing raised production on the 737 program to 47 airplanes a month during the year, delivering 529, including 74 of the new 737 MAX. On the 787 Dreamliner program, Boeing continued building at the highest production rate for a twin-aisle jet, leading to 136 deliveries for the year.
Innovation and developments are the driving force behind the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry’s growth, yet some administrative processes, operational workflows, and department silos are so entrenched in the typical A&D enterprise that true modernization is a challenge.
Digital technologies are driving a wide-scale approach as digital strategies, smart factories, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications become mainstream. Customers, colleagues, employees, partners, and stake-holders all expect modern systems for engagement. Portals, consumer-like interfaces, collaboration tools, and real-time answers are the new normal, and organizations stuck in old-school processes quickly lose credibility. In A&D, credibility and trust are paramount to avoid being branded as an out-of-date company that is technology adverse.
As more companies adopt digital solutions, the best practices are becoming clear. Most large endeavors require an overarching strategy instead of haphazardly working on random details. Early on, objectively evaluate the existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution; without the right ERP solution, other digital tactics will be more difficult to execute and may cause disappointing results. Midway into execution, it may be necessary to retrace steps, starting over with a more modern, agile system, so it is more efficient to make those decisions first.
Guidelines on what an ERP solution will need to do to support a digital transformation include:
1) Cloud deployment. Many companies investing in digital strategies are making cloud deployment a critical part of the plan. Reasons for transitioning to the cloud range from faster implementation time, to the convenience of subscription models that frees capital for other investments. A critical benefit for A&D companies is cloud deployment’s agility and update ability.
To keep pace in the digital era, an organization needs to be agile. Escalating market pressures can change overnight, trends come and go, and customer expectations evolve continuously. To respond, companies may need to evolve from manufacturing to service-centric business models. A supplier may transition to installation or inspections. A company may need to focus on one contract or service. It may implement new divisions or separate branches to meet compliance mandates or achieve security clearance. It might form regional divisions, leverage mergers, forge partnerships, add distribution hubs, create new service branches, or build facilities to focus on specific components. These tactics require setting up new systems, including hardware and software.
With the traditional approach, a firm’s information technology (IT) department would be burdened with procuring and managing the hardware, servers, security, and back-up systems for these new locations. Software for traditional on-premises systems can be time-consuming to implement. In contrast, cloud deployment leaves the system setup to the cloud provider, eliminating the IT team’s burden. Implementation takes days, not years.
2) Internet of Things. Digital technologies can involve smart sensors and connecting machines, devices, and processes. Sensors can monitor a variety of conditions, from location to temperature and weight, and can be as small as a pencil eraser, storing and communicating data elsewhere for aggregation and analysis. Data science can also play a part in identifying anomalies that require action, such as early signs that a component is vibrating, indicating a balance issue. Installing sensors is just the beginning. Then comes the need to store, analyze, and act upon the data generated. Cloud deployment with elastic storage capabilities, Big Data, data science, and advanced contextual analytics need to be part of a foundational plan.
3) Visibility and flexibility. Digital transformation is about data visibility and access, connecting to other systems, solutions, and even other devices, such as shipping containers and material handling equipment. To be digital-ready, an organization must have a flexible ERP system. One that eliminates cumbersome modifications making upgrades and integration difficult. In the past, ERP providers were concerned about keeping data within the organization, not in sharing. Today, visibility must extend beyond the enterprise to the supply chain network, colleagues, co-manufacturers, field service technicians, and partners. Modern solutions with highly flexible architecture allow integrating various branches and divisions, plus third-party suppliers, partners, or co-manufacturers.
4) Modern reporting and compliance. Reporting is a critical part of programs with mandated compliance steps. In next-generation ERP solutions, reporting is often self-service, letting users conduct their own searches, reports, and tracking of key performance indicators (KPIs). Relevant metrics can be continually pushed to users, making program reporting and management easier.
5) Consistent customer-centricity. ERP solutions should be able to address the entire customer journey, not just order-entry or field service dispatch. Customers want an engaging, collaborative experience, one that helps multiple vested parties work together to solve problems. A modern ERP solution can leverage collaboration tools, portals for customer interaction, enhanced customer relationship management (CRM), and digital marketing tools.
6) Predictive analytics. Analyzing historical activities is no longer sufficient; ERP must accurately predict trends, forecast sales, and anticipate demand in resources. Analyzing data and predicting results based on data science gives another advantage – being prepared with the resources needed for production, eliminating gaps and delays – improving productivity and helping meet customer expectations for delivery. Workers will no longer be waiting for the right raw materials to arrive, especially critical in maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) and service centers where some parts are slow-moving, not always kept in inventory, expensive, and difficult to transport.
7) Proactive decision making. Outdated ERP solutions tend to have limited tools, forcing the user to contend with clunky interfaces while clicking on multiple screens to hunt for the right information. Modern ERP solutions place an emphasis on usability and productivity. Mobile solutions speed up decision-making by allowing personnel to access data while on the shop floor, in the warehouse, or on the road visiting customers.
8) Preventive maintenance. A digital strategy often incorporates smart sensors to monitor the condition of equipment, machinery, vehicles, and material handling equipment. The goal is to identify early symptoms of performance failure when there is still time to take corrective measures and prevent unplanned downtime. To optimize the use of sensor technology, have systems in place for enterprise asset maintenance (EAM), which includes managing parts inventory, tracking service history, technician scheduling, and managing warranties. Advanced digital strategies will have little impact if the basics of equipment maintenance are overlooked.
9) Tech-centric workforce. Finding skilled technical workers can be difficult, another reason cloud deployment makes sense. The cloud provider takes responsibility for upgrades, system maintenance, and security. The CIO, IT director, and IT personnel can focus on high-impact strategic functions, leaving day-to-day IT management to others.
10) 3D printing, robotics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. These disruptive technologies are receiving plenty of attention, and for good reason. They are the innovative tools that will transform business and set new paths to greater profits and improved performance. A&D manufacturers were among the first and continue to be dominant users of 3D printing. The advantages for prototyping, testing, and creating one-off, complex parts are well documented. Robotics are also often used when micro-level precision is critical.
Virtual reality and augmented reality are finding a place in A&D companies, used in training and testing, from pilots to service technicians. Simulation chambers no longer need to be full-sized rooms, they only require specialized goggles and gloves, letting users experience a situation as if they are actually there. Highly skilled technicians are in demand, so any tactic that can bring a novice up to speed quickly or leverage the tribal knowledge of a veteran technician is valuable. Full optimization of such technology requires a highly flexible ERP solution that has the architecture to integrate seamlessly with devices and other platforms.
Planning and launching a digital strategy is no easy task. It makes sense to form a strategy upfront that involves a modern ERP solution. The ERP will bring practical applications that the enterprise needs now to be competitive and satisfy customers. Start work on a digital strategy now by putting the right foundation in place that will support you tomorrow and beyond.
Cubic boron nitride (CBN) is a superabrasive traditionally used to grind steels and nickel alloys. Though not as hard as diamond (4,500kg/mm2 vs. 9,000 kg/mm2), CBN is not chemically reactive with ferrite-based and nickel alloys, allowing it to outperform diamond-based grinding wheels in life and material removal rates on these materials1. A 1987 study by Hitchiner and Wilks showed that when grinding nickel, the chemical wear of a diamond single-point turning tool exceeded abrasive mechanical wear by 105x, highlighting the importance of using CBN in these applications2. Using CBN requires fewer wheel changes and machine downtime, offers low and controlled wear rates, and provides excellent thermal stability. As CBN superabrasive wheels wear with use, the wear rate and wear mechanisms largely determine wheel performance.
To understand the wear mechanisms in single-layer CBN wheels, it is first important to understand their construction. Single-layer wheels typically consist of a steel core that has been machined or ground to a specific size and tolerance. Next, wheels are masked to keep only the abrasive regions exposed and the CBN grains are then tacked in place. The wheels are submerged in an electrolytic solution, and a current is passed through the wheel and solution, which draws the Ni-based bond onto the wheel as a cathodic reaction occurs2. Manufacturers can control the thickness of the bond layer by varying the amount of time the wheel is plated.
Plating thickness plays a significant role in CBN grain wear mechanisms during grinding. Thick coatings tend to hold grains at the expense of material removal rate (due to lower grit protrusion from the top surface of the bond) and higher grinding temperatures (due to less room for coolant to enter and grinding swarf to escape). Thinner coatings can increase grit protrusion, at the risk of grain pullout, macro-fracture, and lower wheel life.
Hitchiner2, Malkin3, Upadhyaya4, and Ding5 all describe four possible modes of wear in grinding with electroplated products.
Attritious wear of the grains (grain flattening) – Grain wear is minimal and is concentrated at small scales around the cutting surfaces. Grinding forces are often insufficient to cause grain fracture, so grain dulling occurs. This can result in an increase in the power draw and is often associated with more plowing and rubbing between the grains and work material, leading to a higher likelihood of thermal damage. To combat attritious grain wear, an increase in grinding forces (more aggressive grinding parameters) should be used to promote grain fracture. In dressable grinding products (vitrified or resin bonded wheels), dressing parameters and frequency can help combat attritious grain wear as well.
Grain micro-fracture (microcrystalline splintering) – Grinding forces are sufficient to cause small scale grain fracture, resulting in continuous generation of sharp cutting points. This is often accompanied by steady-state grinding power. Grain micro-fracture is favorable for consistent, predictable grinding.
Grain macro-fracture or large-scale cleaving (partial grain break-off) – When forces are substantially high, grains may cleave or break off in large fragments. This typically results in low wheel life and is an indication that the grinding parameters are too aggressive.
Grain/bond interface wear or bond wear (causing total grain breakoff) – Though not common, it can happen if the grain exposure level (percentage of the grain that is above the plating bond material) is high (>50%) and the forces are high. In grain pullout, the grains are ripped out of the bond, resulting in low wheel life. This was highlighted by Ghosh and Chattopadhyay6 who note the relationship between plating thickness and tendency for grit pullout.
A visual summary of the four common wear modes is included in Figure 1 (right).
Assuming a grinding process has been developed that results predominantly in micro-fracture of CBN grains, common and predictable wheel performance trends are often observed with single-layer wheels. As described by Hitchiner2 and Upadhyaya3, 4, wheel wear and grinding power of new plated wheels tend to increase quickly during break-in, where only the tips of the highest grains are cutting the material, leading to a lower active grit density and rougher surface.
However, this break-in period is often short, replaced by more stable grinding where rates of change for wheel wear, power, and surface finish can decrease by up to 10x after the initial break-in rates. Wheel failure tends to occur once the grains have worn, causing grinding power to increase and surface roughness to drop, often resulting in workpiece burn. Failure can also be caused by grain and bond stripping off the steel core during more aggressive applications. In both failure modes, predicting the end of life is difficult, and is best estimated using empirical life data from previous wheels.
The final performance is only partially a function of the wheel. Other influential factors include coolant system filtration, setup, and nozzles, machine stiffness and forces, and the workpiece fixture. The final stress-state of the abrasive grain is a result of thermal and mechanical wear, which are driven by machine parameters, coolant, and lubricity. Once the entire system has been evaluated, focus may be placed on designing a grind cycle that promotes micro-fracture and self-sharpening wheels.
If the wear modes are observed when using single layer products, it is recommended to check troubleshooting topics to improve the wheel performance and part quality in the application.
We’ve all heard the argument. An expensive, highly adaptable machine tool can be less expensive to run, in the long term, because higher productivity will lower costs-per-part. However, getting over that initial sticker shock can be daunting for many manufacturers.
A group of manufacturing experts representing machine tool builders, cutting tool companies, workholding producers, and other specialists recently gathered to figure out how to offer the capabilities of an expensive machine without the big upfront costs.
“Most demonstrations are devised to show technological advances in terms of mechanical or electrical performance,” says John Soukup, team leader and regional sales manager (Southeast) for workholding producer Hainbuch America Corp. “While new technologies can create cost savings in the long run, few are intended to address the question of initial affordability. It became our team’s goal to develop a system that combined the three Ps: Performance, Portability, and Price.”
Soukup’s group was one of several participating in Okuma Partners In THINC’s Winter Showcase in Charlotte, North Carolina, in December 2017. The group used the products and expertise of Okuma (machining centers), Hainbuch, Kennametal (tooling), Haimer-USA (shrink-fit toolholders), MP Systems (high-pressure coolant and chiller systems), Lyndex-Nikken (5-axis rotary tables), Blaser Swisslube (ester-based coolant), Siemens PL (systems software), and VMH International (systems integration).
“Success can be achieved when companies that are leaders in their fields work together to solve customer challenges,” says Wade Anderson, Okuma product specialist and tech center manager. “As the aerospace, medical, and energy sectors have increased the demand for complex, high-precision parts in relatively limited quantities, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their suppliers are faced with the problem of justifying the expense of a dedicated 5-axis machine.”
To lower system costs, the partners created a discrete, 5-axis module that could be mounted on a 3- or 4-axis machine. To demonstrate the idea, they used an Okuma GENOS M56O-V machining center featuring a 1,300mm x 560mm table; X, Y, and Z travels of 1,050mm x 560mm x 460mm; a 15,000rpm spindle; and a 32-tool magazine.
“The GENOS M560-V was the logical choice” to demonstrate lower-cost 5-axis machining, Anderson says, because it is popular with “customers who are looking for an entry-level machining center without sacrificing quality and performance.”
At the base of the group’s system is an 8" Nikken, 5-axis rotary table equipped with a wear-resistant carbide worm screw and an iron-nitride worm wheel. The table will hold up to 150 lb and is actuated by servo motors linked to the machine control. Rotation is a full 360°, and tilting extends from 0° to 105°.
“In 5-axis applications, the tolerances are invariably tight,” says Bob Berongi, regional sales manager at Lyndex-Nikken. “The use of carbide and iron-nitride in the worm screw and wheel is essential to maintaining those parameters and to extending the life of the table.”
To demonstrate capabilities, the partners produced a complex, 7075 T-6 heat-treated aluminum landing gear part that required high tolerances and a high finish. Each of the group’s partners provided expertise to ensure high-quality, low-cost production (see sidebar).
“If a manufacturer or a job shop attempted to assemble a unit such as this, they would, in all probability, call on their traditional suppliers – some of which might not carry the products or possess the knowledge equal to the task,” Anderson says. “By selectively choosing our Partners in THINC, you can be assured that what was developed here is the product of the ‘best of the best.’”
Soukup adds, “All of us who worked on this project are extremely happy with the results. Thanks to our combined efforts, we evolved a cost-effective system that puts top-line 5-axis performance within reach for our customers. And that is our goal.”
With 2.2 million parts, seating for up to 330 passengers, a maximum range of 7,600nm, and a top speed of Mach 0.90, more than 600 Boeing 787 aircraft are in service worldwide.
The aircraft’s complicated electronic systems communicate through a maze of cables, so each 787 carries thousands of connectors. It was the first commercial aircraft to adopt rectangular, composite cable connectors throughout the entire airplane. Others use them in cockpit electronics, but the 787 completely ditched traditional round, metal connectors.
Boeing made sweeping changes to the connectors when it designed the 787, and the rest of the industry is following suit. Circular, metal-housed connectors are being replaced with rectangular, composite ones for weight reduction, space efficiency, and modular capabilities.
When Boeing was developing the 787, the first plane reportedly was 5,000 lb heavier than specified, prompting designers to reevaluate many parts. Weight concerns partly drove the decision to deploy composite materials – making the 787 the first major commercial plane with a composite fuselage, wings, and frame components.
While the difference in weight between a round metal connector and a rectangular composite connector is barely noticeable, the difference between thousands of such connectors adds up. One study concludes a fleet of composite planes could reduce carbon emissions by up to 15%. Conversely, lighter planes can carry more cargo, potentially reducing the number of flights required and costs to airlines and air transportation companies.
When bakers cut sheets of cookie dough with a circular cookie cutter, lots of dough between the circles remains. Imagine instead cutting the dough in squares, leaving minimal waste.
Traditionally, panels of round cable input jacks accept the cables. The panel layout is like that first cookie sheet – lots of wasted space around the circular-shaped jacks. Rectangular connectors reshape those panels, allowing designers to squeeze more cables into the same space or reduce the size of the panel while still accommodating the same number of inputs.
Automobile manufacturers use the same parts in many car models. Equipment standardization can streamline the supply chain and improve product quality, principles applicable to airplane manufacturing. However, platform flexibility doesn’t exist with round metal connectors, which have an insert glued into them that can’t be changed. A specific connector is required for a specific application.
Rectangular connectors are made of multiple pieces that can be mixed and matched to tailor the connector to a given application. To ensure safety, connectors are keyed so only the correct connector can go into each dock. Rectangular connectors are also fiber-ready, while circular connectors generally are not.
The Bombardier C Series aircraft has transitioned to rectangular connectors, and Gulfstream has used some rectangular connectors. Boeing’s recently announced new mid-sized aircraft (NMA) replacement for the 757 may use rectangular connectors, as well.