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£2 Million Viper Grinding Cell for Turbine Blade Production

ELE Advanced Technologies Ltd - Lancashire

Original Press Release

£2 Million Viper Grinding Cell for Turbine Blade Production

Press release date: May 11, 2012

ELE Advanced Technologies, which specialises in applying non-conventional machining techniques to the production of industrial gas turbine components used in aircraft and power generation, has invested £2 million in an automated VIPER grinding cell at its Colne factory. The equipment is devoted to high efficiency machining of complex fir-tree root forms and shroud end features on nickel alloy turbine blades, compressor blades and guide vanes. Leading names in aerospace and land-based turbine manufacture are customers, including Rolls-Royce, Avio, Pratt & Whitney, Siemens and Alstom. Peter Calderbank, Operations Director at ELE, commented, "We have traditionally used conventional creep feed grinders to manufacture industrial gas turbine components. "Whilst this method is efficient for large volume production, the market is increasingly demanding smaller batches, delivered just-in-time. "This means that we need to introduce more flexible, rapid changeover technology to bring down manufacturing costs for shorter runs, hence our investment in VIPER (very impressive performance extreme removal) grinding. "Set-ups are quicker and completed off-line, lead times are shorter, the amount of work-in-progress is less and tooling costs are lower, leading to much more economical machining of high accuracy features in exotic alloys." The automated process at ELE is based on a Makino 5-axis A99e machining centre configured for creep-feed grinding using small, profiled wheels exchanged from the tool magazine. The turnkey cell includes equipment for continuously dressing the grinding wheels, an Erowa palletised workholding system and a Fanuc 6-axis robot for exchanging fixtured components automatically. More features can be ground in a single set-up on a VIPER machine than on a conventional creep feed grinder, saving refixturing time and promoting higher accuracy and repeatability. Typically, conventional grinding of root and shroud features on a nickel alloy casting requires four separate operations on CNC grinders, plus there is a significant amount of handling time. The same component can be completed on the Makino A99 in two operations and speed of manufacture is increased further by the higher metal removal rate. Another useful benefit of VIPER grinding on a machining centre is that other tools can be brought into use from the same magazine that houses the grinding wheels. So, for example, if additional metalcutting operations such as milling and drilling are required, these may be completed in the same cycle without manual intervention. VIPER grinding has been very successful at ELE. Several new contracts to be machined on the Makino A99 have been secured, on the basis of reduced tooling costs and very short lead times. ELE will be presenting this new grinding capability and other production technologies on stand J15 at the Subcon 2012 show, to be held at the NEC from 12th to 14th June. The ISO 9001-2000 accredited company is one of only a very few manufacturers worldwide offering capillary, laser and EDM drilling as well as shaped tube electrolytic machining alongside conventional machining such as high-speed CNC milling and turning. ELE also have a factory in Slovakia producing complex turbocharger components and other components in small volumes for the automotive industry. ELE Advanced Technologies Ltd, Cotton Tree Lane, Colne, Lancashire, BB8 7BH, United Kingdom.
Tel: +44 (0)1282 873400.
Fax: +44 (0)1282 873403.
Web site:
Contact: Peter Calderbank, Operations Director. Release no: 1001(GN)


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