3D-Coordinate Measuring Machine Ensures Exacting Aerospace Precision Requirements

The Leipold Group is producing turned parts for the aviation industry. This has allowed the manufacturer, which has its headquarters in Wolfach, Germany, to expand its portfolio into a new sector. Behind this decision lies a new partnership with the aviation industry supplier GMT. Although Leipold is a newcomer to this highly specific market, the manufacturer’s size means that it can offer flexible production structures in series production, along with high levels of process reliability. The parts supplied are currently being used in various models, for instance the Airbus A350.

“With our expertise in machining technology, based on decades of experience, extremely highly trained staff, state-of-the-art machinery and sophisticated custom tools, we believe that we are up to the challenges of this market”, stresses Pascal Schiefer, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Leipold Group.

A wider product range

The new portfolio includes connecting elements – in particular, fork joints, rings and bushings made from a range of different metals such as high-alloy steels, titanium and other special alloys. These depend on exactly which part of the aircraft they will be used in.

The precision parts are installed in what are known as tie-rods. These are used as connecting elements at interfaces: for instance, at the mountings of water tanks and luggage racks, in lift struts, but also in highly critical areas such as the flap openings for the landing gear mechanism or on interior elements that are also connected to the aircraft skin (chassis).

Leipold produces these articles, many of which feature extremely challenging geometric shapes, on machines including the high-performance Sprint 50 double-spindle turning centre by DMG Mori. For the individual machining stages, the company uses custom tools and custom machine elements, which are designed and produced in its own tool-making department.

Narrow tolerances in the micrometer range

In this process, Leipold has taken responsibility not only for production, which it assures due to its excellent process capability, but also for quality assurance. In a downstream production stage, the manufacturer uses a 3D-coordinate measuring machine to ensure that the extremely exacting precision requirements for these aviation parts have been met. The tolerances for boring diameters, roundness and coaxiality are in the micrometer range.

Leipold is listed as a link in the supply chain for the well-known aircraft manufacturers Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier. Initially, the series production parts were used in the Airbus A380, whereas today, most of the turned parts are fitted in the A350. Several hundred Leipold parts are used in every single aircraft.

Growing partnership with GMT

The background to the portfolio expansion is a new partnership with GMT GmbH. Because machining is not one of the core competencies of the aviation supplier, headquartered in the town of Bühl, in Baden, it has outsourced machining production to external suppliers ever since it set up the business division. Previously, GMT tended to award contracts to smaller turning shops with less capacity. Now, however, its constant growth in the aviation segment has forced it to rethink. Seeking a reliable partner for the production of critical turned parts in high volumes, GMT turned to Leipold.

“Although Leipold is a complete newcomer to the sector, the decision in favour of this partnership turned out to be extremely far-sighted”, says Siegfried Oser, Head of Purchasing in the field of aviation for GMT. “The fundamental technological skills are in place and the organisational structures we observed are also far superior to those of our existing suppliers”. Leipold stands for high process reliability and production flexibility in small and large series production runs, he went on to explain.

Optimised production technology for more efficiency

Right from the development stage of new components, Leipold advises on feasibility, economic efficiency and possible savings potential. The production technology also won GMT over. Leipold manufactures the parts completely in a single working step. “As a result of the partnership, we are already far more cost-efficient than previously”, says Oser.

All indications are that this will be a long-term partnership. Both companies can see a great deal of potential in it: “We both have the same philosophy. The aviation segment is already a growth area for us, just as it is for GMT”, says Pascal Schiefer. “Together, we hope to continue expanding our range of innovative, reliable and precise solutions for aviation.”

For more information: www.leipold.com