Stratolaunch Systems Corp. completed the first flight of the world’s largest all-composite aircraft at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port. With a dual-fuselage design and wingspan greater than the length of a football field, the Stratolaunch reached 189mph, flying for 2.5 hours up to 17,000ft over the Mojave Desert. As part of the April 13, 2019, flight, the pilots evaluated aircraft performance and handling qualities.
The Stratolaunch aircraft mobile launch platform is designed to provide convenient, affordable, and routine access to space. The reinforced center wing can support multiple launch vehicles weighing up to 500,000 lb.
Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd says the flight “furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground-launched systems.”
Stratolaunch Systems, started in 2011 by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, built the aircraft with partners at Northrup Grumman’s Scaled Composites.
Star SU to offer Samputensili CLC hobbing, gear shaping machines
Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Star SU LLC is bringing a line of horizontal hobbing and gear-shaping machines to North America.
Star SU partner Samputensili’s Machine Tools Group and CLC, a producer of hobbing and shaping machines, will offer new machines under the brand Samputensili CLC S.r.l. from CLC’s manufacturing plant near Bologna, Italy.
The agreement expands Star SU’s line of gear hobbing machines for shafts and long workpieces and adds gear shaping to its gear manufacturing solutions.
Star SU is a partnership between Star Cutter Co. of Farmington Hills, Michigan, and SU America Inc., U.S. sales and manufacturing unit to SAMP S.p.A. – making it one of the world’s largest gear machine, tool, and gear tool manufacturing producers.
Omax, Hypertherm complete merger
Abrasive waterjet systems manufacturer Omax Corp., headquartered in Kent, Washington, has become a subsidiary of Hypertherm, a Hanover, New Hampshire-based manufacturer of industrial cutting systems and software.
The agreement combines Omax’s direct-drive pumps, software, and applications technologies with Hypertherm’s complementary portfolio of intensifier-based pumps and abrasive recycling systems.
“In uniting with Omax, Hypertherm can combine the strengths of two highly talented engineering groups – Omax engineers in Washington state with our waterjet group in Minnesota – to accelerate new waterjet technologies to market,” Hypertherm President and CEO Evan Smith says.
Omax Corp. owns the OMAX, MAXiem, GlobalMAX, and ProtoMAX brands of jet-machining centers.
Hypertherm’s product line includes cutting systems, CNC motion and height controls, CAM nesting software, robotic software, and consumables.
1) What does aerospace automation look like today?
One of the biggest automation integration challenges is the small lot sizes many aerospace manufacturers work with. Small lot sizes and complex parts can make automation seem costly or not even an option. So, aerospace automation uses many flexible setup techniques that we have become accustomed to, such as easily adjustable infeed/outfeed systems and end-of-arm tools.
A flexible system we use at Methods takes advantage of loading a common workholding platform for many different parts. The specific part is held in one of several ways – such as a vise, collet holder, or clamps – but the platform is common in how the robot will grab and how the machine will clamp by using a zero-point clamping system. The robot picks up and moves this common platform into and out of the machine. No setup is needed for the automation or machine between parts.
These automation systems can easily and efficiently run multiple different parts in lot sizes as low as one if needed. The Methods RoboDrill Plus K is a system which takes advantage of these features.
2) What is the best use of automation in aerospace?
The best way is to start by building on the infrastructure you have. Upgrading your 3- and 4-axis machines to a full 5-axis and seeing where robotics can be integrated into your current machine lineup is the quickest way to take advantage of limited floor space.
The more you can automate your production, the less you are spending on idle labor sitting at a machine waiting for it to finish to move it to the next step in the process.
3) What are automation’s biggest benefits?
While the automation used in aerospace is vastly different than the automation used in automotive, benefits are similar in increased productivity. Automation provides more parts in the bucket at the end of the day with less labor to achieve it. Automation doesn’t stop for lunch or breaks but can run well into the next shift, or all the way through it, with limited labor. It can load parts correctly time and time again, which will be the same again and again.
4) How is automation attacking the shortage of qualified engineers?
A popular story is how robots are putting people out of work, but in our manufacturing industry, this is just not the case. There is a severe shortage in qualified workers, and this problem is industry wide. Automation helps by reducing the need for human intervention in manufacturing. We still need quality employees, but automation can reduce this. One exciting result is the re-shaping of available career trajectories. As more jobs open up in automation and robotics, the industry can grow its workforce naturally.
Training and Education is a major focus of Methods. With every solution that goes out, we also spend time training our customers’ engineers on-site and at one of our eight technical centers across the United States. We continually host educational tours where we expose educators and students to the advanced work done in manufacturing and how to make a career out of it.
5) What is the future of aerospace automation?
Successful manufacturers are already implementing automation in their shops. As competition increases we will see more automation, and specifically, more robotics on shop floors that will be able to handle the low-volume, complex, close-tolerance parts that make the aerospace industry unique.
For more info: http://methodsmachine.com
Tewksbury, Massachusetts-based Ascent AeroSystems has revealed its Spirit dual- rotor, coaxial unmanned aerial system (UAS) for defense, intelligence, and public safety applications.
With a cylindrical core not much bigger than a coffee can, the UAS weighs 3 lb and fits in a backpack. According to Ascent AeroSystems’ Chief Engineer Nate Meringer, with two batteries and a 2 lb payload, it can fly for more than 50 minutes.
Spirit will be available in several configurations, including ready-to-fly versions with a gimbal, thermal camera, and a choice of ground control station. Shipments will begin late this summer, says company Co-founder and COO Jon Meringer.
Huntsville, Alabama-based defense contractor Dynetics is Spirit’s launch customer.
Steve Norris, Dynetics’ unmanned systems department manager, explains, “Spirit's modular configuration improves our ability to incorporate new technologies, so we can rapidly develop new payloads and demonstrate new capabilities to our customers in the defense and intelligence communities.”
UAVT introduces Monarch RP propulsion systems
UAV Turbines Inc. (UAVT)’s Monarch RP family of microturbine engines for Group 3 and 4 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can operate on heavy fuels, such as jet fuel, instead of avgas, and can generate up to 3x more on-board electrical power than conventional engines.
Operation time between overhauls is more than 2,000 hours longer than available in current Class 3 engines. Its variable-pitch propeller will enable commercial and military UAVs to climb faster and reach greater speeds.
UAVT in 2018 entered a Technical Investment Agreement with the U.S. military to develop a more efficient propulsion system and is now working with a commercial airframe partner to conduct ground testing.
GE Aviation, Auterion, team on UAS hardware, software
GE Aviation is providing the avionics hardware, application computing, flight management, and integration into airframes. Auterion is providing the Enterprise PX4 operating system that runs on the vehicle, in the cloud, and the ground station, as well as camera integrations, data networking, precision navigation, and traffic management compliance.
The platform architecture supports developers through global open software standards while maintaining an independent and authoritative safety controller. Together, they offer flexibility and design assurance to enable commercial UAS operations beyond visual line of sight and within complex airspace.
Auterion Co-Founder Kevin Sartori says, “The combined solution will significantly reduce barriers commercial cargo drones face flying in manned airspace or inspection drones flying in urban areas.”
The FZ 16 S 5-axis vertical machining center (VMC) with 5-axis tilt rotary table offers rigidity for stable machining, high spindle speeds to optimize cutting tools for shaping challenging metals, and rapid axis positioning to minimize cycle times.
The mineral cast machine bed and gantry design produce stiffness with damping characteristics that reduce vibration and noise. High-performance motors, two Y-axis drives, and short spindle start-up and braking times increase the machine’s speed. A- and C-axes with direct drives ensure precise multi-axis motion and smooth acceleration.
High-precision metal removal and high feed rates can hog material and produce high-quality surfaces on blisks and turbine blades from titanium, Inconel, and stainless steels. Single setup machining saves cycle time and avoids secondary operations.
CNC control systems are available from Siemens, Fanuc, or Heidenhain.
Chiron America Inc.
Handheld 2D parts measurement
The Quadra-Chek (QC) 2000 evaluation unit acquires measuring points using crosshairs or optical edge detection on profile projectors, measuring microscopes, or 2D measuring machines with up to three axes.
For complex, repetitive measuring tasks, QC 2000 users can automatically record measuring programs to run at any time. This digital readout tracks presets, measurement sequence, tolerances, and data-output commands. When the recorded measuring program is repeated, the QC 2000 displays visual instructions for the features to be probed, giving direct, repeatable guidance.
A Measure Magic function automatically selects matching geometry from the acquired measuring points, improving repeatability and reducing measurement uncertainty.
Measurement results are graphically displayed on the unit’s high-resolution, 7" color touchscreen, and the integrated measurement report function can create a PDF or CSV file with results.
The X-Plate System modular fixturing platform for 3-, 4-, and 5-axis applications offers several mounting options, including a precision quick-change system when clamped in a vise or T-slot table. It includes a provision on the bottom for diamond/taper locating pins to precisely mount to sub-plate, plus its primary function as a multi-functional face plate for indexers and 5-axis machining centers.