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Surface Roughness Gauge Automate Aircraft Landing Systems Production Process

As the world’s largest manufacturer of landing systems for airplanes, Safran Landing Systems counts Airbus and Boeing among its customers. Blum-Novotest plays an important part in ensuring that the passengers of hundreds of airliners equipped with Safran products reach their destination safely day by day. With the roughness measuring system TC63-RG from Blum-Novotest, the Canadian company was able to achieve higher levels of safety and quality in their production process while at the same time greatly reducing production times.

Safran has long been using production measuring equipment from Blum-Novotest to ensure that every assembly that leaves the plant meets strict customer requirements. Initially, Safran mainly employed laser measuring systems in their CNC processing centres to measure the length and radius of tools and to monitor for wear and tool breakage. “For some years now, we have been relying on the CNC probe TC63 for measuring work pieces in our processing centres. We recently added the BLUM surface roughness measuring system TC63-RG, which we now use to monitor surfaces automatically. Surfaces are a particularly critical feature in the high-tech systems that Safran manufactures,” says NC Coordinator Shawn Page and adds, with a view to the production of landing gear components: “The machining process is very work intensive. This is because precision is essential to our customers and surface quality is of utmost importance.“

The main component of each landing system is a massive forged piece that can weigh up to eight tonnes. Each of these parts is machined in CNC processing centres, first using rough cutters and then by means of a finishing process that gives the part its final dimensions. The last step is to check the surface quality. Because the surface test had to be performed while the finished part was still clamped in the processing centre, this measurement had an impact not only on the operator’s time, but also on the cycle time of the machine. On each work piece, ten different areas had to be tested in a process that took about 45 minutes. Because the accuracy of the measurement depended on the operator holding the measuring device in the correct position, the potential for human error also had to be factored in. Due to the high amount of effort involved, Shawn Page, who normally supervises production at Safran, had to check a certain number of surfaces himself.

TC63-RG is supplied with a special stylus. Measuring movements are possible along two axes.

To be able to handle the growing volume of work, to reduce manual processes and to maintain and improve the high quality control standards, it became necessary for Safran to automate the process. Examination of the surface quality was an area in which Shawn Page saw potential to improve accuracy and increase the rate of work pieces examined – while also freeing up operating personnel. In addition, the NC coordinator wanted to increase the amount of data collected during production, and to enable this data to flow back into the production process. There was no doubt that there was a need for action, and so Shawn Page contacted Blum-Novotest.

After several convincing product presentations, the right decision was made to have the main components of the landing system examined using the TC63-RG. Since then, TC63-RG has proven its worth at Mirabel, where it monitors surface quality quickly and reliably. The gauge is mounted in the machine spindle just like a normal CNC probe is and measures the surface roughness at predefined locations. The work piece surface is examined to the nearest μm and the roughness parameters Ra, Rq, Rt, Rz and Rmax are determined within seconds.

The Canadian company is planning to integrate BLUM measuring equipment even more closely into the machining process to detect tool wear and deviations before serious problems occur. The next step will be to expand to other machines and processes at Safran. “We are very happy to finally have found a solution with the TC63-RG that greatly reduces the time needed to examine the surface roughness and to thus increases the cycle time considerably while also eliminating human error in the measuring process,” Shawn Page summarizes. “This enabled us to markedly increase the productivity of our machining process. Not only that, but we can now use the time saved for more intensive work piece inspection and we test far more surface areas than before. Thus, our production process has become much more reliable and yields higher quality products.”

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