NASA has awarded a $17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace to add an expandable module to the International Space Station.
The agency says it wants to demonstrate the inflatable modules so they can be used in future space exploration and for commercial use.
A new forecast takes a more optimistic view of the aerospace industry, which includes a return to growth in the aftermarket business and a “belated pick up” in the business jet market.
At the same time, growth for Boeing and Airbus suppliers could ease as the planemakers, which have been raising production rates to meet orders, approach full production and burn down inventory buffers, Robert Stallard, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, wrote in an industry report released Jan 7, 2013, titled: Global Aerospace & Defense: The 2013 Oracle.
The U.S. avoided the doom of a fiscal cliff and the Mayan end of the world, it said, along with the completion of the U.S. election.
“With many of the macro issues of last year behind us, and raw economic lead indicators showing signs of modest improvement, we are taking a more optimistic stance as 2013 kicks off,” Stallard wrote.
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When it comes to sourcing capital equipment for machining specialty materials, many organizations would do well to remember the 10-speed bicycle analogy. People shop and buy a 10-speed bike for recreational or workout goals, but when riding rarely go beyond two or three of the most comfortable gears. Tour de France riders and other finely tuned athletes both size and operate all their components (frame, pedals, shifters, wheels, etc.) to get the absolute most out of their equipment, whether climbing mountains or racing in the flats.
Machining high-strength, high-temperature alloys like titanium is a significant mountain to climb for many shops. Machine tool builders have responded with milling and turning centers that feature improved stiffness and damping on spindles and sizable machine structures and motors, all to provide the significant cutting forces required while minimizing undesirable vibrations that deteriorate part quality and tool life.
Achieving the ultimate system for machining titanium for maximum metal removal means paying close attention to the machine tool that provides the force, the cutting tool characteristics where the cutting edge meets the workpiece, and the spindle connection – the handshake between the machine tool and the cutter.
In April 2012, machine-tool builder Mitsui Seiki, Franklin Lakes, NJ, in connection with tooling and tooling systems provider Kennametal Inc., Latrobe, PA, conducted a test cut on a titanium (Ti-6Al-4V) workpiece on the Mitsui-Seiki HPX63 CNC horizontal machining center equipped with four Kennametal tools, each using the KM4X 100 spindle connection.
Key design criteria of the HPX63 include a large work capacity featuring a swing diameter up to 1,050mm and available work height (Y-axis) up to 1,050mm. Axis stroke is 1,000mm in X and 900mm in Z. Pallet size is 630mm. The B-axis rotary table offers 12rpm and high-torque, high-acceleration availability. Rapid travel rates are 32m/min with 0.5G acceleration/deceleration, and the cutting feed rate is 12m/min.
Made for precision work, metallurgically configured castings deliver the utmost stiffness, its box way axis slides are hardened, ground, and hand-scraped. Positioning accuracy and repeatability is 0.001mm. The spindle, Mitsui’s own, automatically compensates for thermal changes and does not require a warm up period. The company offers several spindle options to meet user needs for direct or gear drives and the amount of torque and rpm requirements.
Overall, the ruggedness, rigidity, and precision of the HPX-63 make it ideal for machining titanium, Inconnel, tool steels, stainless steels, and aluminum for the aerospace, energy, compressor, mold and die, fixtures and tooling, automotive prototyping, and general precision machining industries.
A spindle connection that makes the best utilization of available power possible is an important consideration to achieving the ultimate system. Most tools in the market are solid and the spindles have relatively low clamping force. Connection stiffness is limited, as radial interference needs to be kept to a minimum. The required tolerances to achieve consistent face contact are thus very tight, leading to high manufacturing costs.
The Spindle Connection
KM4X from Kennametal represents the next generation of KM. Some systems may be able to transmit a considerable amount of torque, but cutting forces also generate bending moments that will exceed the interface’s limits prior to reaching torque limits. By using three-surface contact for improved stability and optimized clamping force distribution and interference fit, KM4X engineering results in three times the bending moment resistant capacity compared to other tool systems.
In the test cut, the HPX63 was equipped with a high-torque, high-power spindle with maximum 26/22kW power and 1081 Nm torque. The KM4X100 spindle connection generated 85kNm clamping force, more than twice an HSK100 and three times that of a BT50 (40kNm and 25kNm, respectively).
The Cutting Tools
The four different cutting tools employed in the test were:
- A 203.2mm diam. face mill with seven square indexable inserts;
- The same diameter face mill with seven round inserts;
- A 76.21mm diam., 228.6mm long helical (HARVI Ultra) cutter with five helical rows of 11 inserts each;
- A flat-bottom indexable (FBI) drill unit at 125mm diameter with six indexable inserts.
With the power of the machine tool and spindle and superior clamping force of the spindle connection, test cut results were phenomenal across the board. For the square-insert face mill, the material-removal rate reached 88.74cc/min. at 64min-1 spindle speed, 12mm depth of cut, and 45mm cutting width, feeding at 164.3mm/min.
At 73min-1 spindle speed, 177.8mm cutting width, 3mm depth of cut, and 88.9mm/min cutting feed, the round insert face mill achieved a 47.42cc/min. material-removal rate.
The HARVI Ultra helical cutter, cutting in X and Y directions simultaneously, topped 309cc/min. material-removal rate at a spindle speed of 171min-1, 101.6mm/min. cutting feed, 40mm depth of cut and 76.21mm cutting width.
The FBI drill made a flat-bottomed hole in the titanium workpiece at 102min-1 spindle speed, 10.2mm/min. feed, and 125mm hole diameter at 125.2cc/min. material-removal rate. Following the first hole, the workpiece was rotated 45° away from the spindle in order to drill an angled hole pushing through the edge of the previous hole. In spite of the heavy interrupted cuts, both machine tool and drill performed well.
To the Max
Compared to commodity or general-purpose machine tools, the HPX63 is able to reach between one-and-a-half and two times the material-removal rate in machining titanium alloy. In addition, the KM4X spindle connection had enough clamping force and interference fit to allow a customer to use the higher RPMs and torque levels the machine tool and spindle can provide. Gains from the machine tools are more productivity potential while gains from the tools are additional cutting performance.
Moreover, a KM4X100 spindle connection will reach performance levels of an HSK125, but makes unnecessary the longer spindle, bigger tool-changer arm, larger tool magazine, and all the related increases a larger-footprint machine would require. Sizing the right machine tool with the right tools and connection can result in an ultimate productivity system for cutting titanium and other difficult-to-machine alloys. The connection can stay viable right up to the machine tool’s performance potential, which will drive the most out of the cutting edge, Milling, drilling, and even turning just got more productive.
New product development is a powerful force in expanding manufacturing’s impact on economies around the world. Concurrently, the focus on improving production efficiency and part quality while meeting stringent production schedules is unrelenting. Measurement and inspection is one vital area being marked for improvement by advances in laser-scanning technology, and retrofitting coordinate-measuring machines (CMMs) or articulated arms with new laser scanners is one affordable option many manufacturers are considering.
Given the right choices in scanning and software technology, many advances are possible:
• Measurement coverage. Where many touch probes might achieve input rates of one point per second, laser-scanning stripes can range from 50mm to 200 mm (1.97" to 7.87") in width and scan tens of thousands of data points per second.
• Speed. With laser scanning, even complex 3D castings, production dies, turbine blades, cell phones, or plastic parts can be scanned in a matter of minutes.
• Offline reporting. Reserving your CMM or articulated arm for measuring and inspection, and transferring data to PC-based reporting software can significantly reduce inspection time and speed time to market.
• Quick and simple retrofits. A range of laser-scanning options are compatible with many existing CMM and articulated –arm setups. Often retrofits can be accomplished in a matter of hours.
• Ability to automate. Integrated software packages are available that can handle gathering data, measuring, comparing scanned data to CAD models, and generating reports with both visual representations and tabular data into a single automated process.
• Latest technology. New technologies such as cross-scanning combine multiple scanners and digital cameras for scanning complex parts and features without re-orientation.
• Easy-to-understand reports. Incorporating color-coded visuals and tabular data can speed approval processes and make sharing information easier.
• Cost effective. In many cases, new laser scanners can be retrofitted to existing CMMs or articulated arms, and selected laser scanners can be applicable to both platforms.
Many choices in CMM based laser-scanning technology are available. On the entry level, numerous companies make single-stripe laser scanners that provide approximately a 50-mm stripe width, generate 20 to 25 stripes per second, and input something in the ballpark of 20,000 points per second while maintaining an error tolerance of 20µm to 25µm. For more demanding inspection tasks, Nikon Metrology manufacturers a laser scanner featuring a 60mm stripe width while scanning at a blazing 75 stripes-per-second scan rate that can maintain an error tolerance of 9µm. Scanners are also available with smaller fields of view for digitizing small, detailed objects with higher point densities and tolerances down to 4µm.
For scanning large objects, laser scanners are available in hand-held models or for attaching to articulated arms, making walk-around scanning easier. Depending on the type of scanner, stripe widths can vary between 50mm and 200mm, and digital cameras capture more than a thousand points per stripe. This provides optimum resolution for efficiently scanning freeform surfaces and features. Cross-scanners are also available, that incorporate multiple scanners and multiple cameras for measuring or reverse-engineering large parts.
A former hurdle with laser scanning was difficulty scanning highly reflective surfaces. This would necessitate spraying the object with a matte spray coating to eliminate obtaining reflective data and other extraneous noise. Today’s laser scanners feature automatic real-time adjustment of sensor settings for each individual point along the laser stripe, effectively handling highly reflective surfaces or those with varying colors
Software compatibility is another important point to keep in mind. Nikon Metrology maintains partnerships with a number of inspection software providers and also provides its own point-cloud-processing solution. Laser scanning can input tens of thousands of points per second, so effective inspection software should be able to handle a large volume of inspection data (up to 100 million points) and provide the following tools:
• Automated feature-detection algorithms
• Full part comparison to CAD or STL files
• Complete set of 2D and 3D features
• Geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GDT) ability
• Specialized measuring capability, such as wall thickness, flush and gap, and directional comparisons.
• Dedicated inspection modules, such as turbine-blade inspection.
• Off-line modules, enabling users to use CMMs or articulated arms for inspection, and personal computers for creating or modifying reports and models.
Every manufactured part has its own range of inspection or reverse-engineering issues. There could be a combination of planar and freeform surfaces, intricate radii, highly reflective surfaces, or complex features, such as those found in castings or dies. Inspection tasks could include comparisons of scanned point clouds to CAD models, updating designs, creating CAD models for reverse-engineering or rapid-prototyping tasks, and many more. Laser-scanning technology is advancing, and many applications can be customized to individual production requirements and retrofitted to existing CMM or articulated arms. Macro functionality makes fully automated scanning and report-generation possible, including inputting data, providing measurements, aligning components for best fit, using virtual probes for identifying and measuring deviations, and providing multiple templates for easy-to-use visuals and tabular data. The benefits are simplified and more direct measuring and inspection functions that speed time to market while being able to handle a wider range of parts and surfaces. In short, better products faster.
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Installed by shuttle astronauts during the 2008 Servicing Mission (SM4), the WFC3 is Hubble’s most technologically advanced visible spectrum instrument. In addition to WFC3, the SM4 included installation of the Ball-built Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), an instrument 30 times more sensitive in the far-ultraviolet than earlier Hubble ultraviolet spectrographs.
According to scientists, the most recent discovery made by Hubble showed that the galaxy, known as UDFj-39546284, likely existed when the universe was just 380 million years old. The other six distant galaxies all formed within 600 million years of the Big Bang, which created our universe about 13.7 billion years ago. UDFj-39546284 was detected previously, and researchers had thought it formed just 500 million years or so after the Big Bang. The WFC3 infrared observations push its probable formation time back even further. Also in 2012:
* Hubble captured the farthest-ever view into the universe, a photo that reveals thousands of galaxies billions of light-years away. Called eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the image combines 10 years of Hubble telescope views of one patch of sky. Only the accumulated light gathered over so many observation sessions can reveal such distant objects. The photo is a sequel to the original “Hubble Ultra Deep Field,” an image Hubble captured in 2003 and 2004 that collected light over many hours to reveal thousands of distant galaxies in what was the deepest view of the universe to that date. The XDF goes even farther, peering back 13.2 billion years into the universe.
* Hubble detected a tiny new moon discovered orbiting Pluto, bringing the number of known Pluto satellites to five. Researchers expressed surprise that despite its small size, Pluto nonetheless has a very complex collection of satellites. The new discovery provides additional clues for unraveling how the Pluto system formed and evolved.