Voith Hydro Achieving Improved Production of Power Generation Equipment Through Standardization of Machine Tool Controls

Large parts and one-off runs present particular challenges; common CNC platform offers many benefits to busy York, PA shop

Voith Hydro in York, Pennsylvania is a major manufacturer of hydroelectric power generation equipment, especially the intricate turbines used in such operations, supplying hydroelectric generating companies and municipalities throughout North America.  Over 12,000 units have been commissioned in the field with more than 65,000 MW of installed capacity, plus Voith Hydro has also upgraded over 600 existing power generation units.  As a turnkey supplier to the industry, the company manages all phases of power plant projects, from analysis and planning, design and implementation, to commissioning and operation.  Voith Hydro is ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 Certified.  

At the York facility, very large multi-axis machining centers produce carbon and stainless steel work pieces, most often in a one-off mode and at sizes frequently exceeding 35' in diameter.   Adam Ward, the manager of maintenance facilities at Voith Hydro, says the machining done typically holds +/- 0.002" tolerances here, nonetheless.  "We do turning, line boring and milling on extremely large and heavy work pieces that often challenge us to design the optimum machining cycle.  Our long cycles can frequently result in heat distortion on material surfaces and so we take great care in looking for problems before they occur."  

Voith Hydro maintains an impressive array of machine tools and multi-axis machining centers here.  Despite a variety of builder brands, the majority of the machines have one common component, namely, the Siemens SINUMERIK 840D CNC onboard.  

As Ward notes, "Our operators are quite comfortable with the CNC from Siemens and they use it for all motion control, plus the operator interface has the ability to afford us great troubleshooting capability and something else we value greatly, the commonality of the HMI on the control.  That fact allows us to do a great deal of cross-training and that's very important to us.  We need to be highly flexible, given the one-off nature of our work here."   Most of the operators at Voith Hydro are capable of running multiple machines, while the maintenance personnel on his team can more easily service the machining equipment in the facility, adds Ward.  He credits his machine builders and the Siemens team led by Howard Weinstein and Robert Stiefel for this ongoing flexibility.  

Voith typically takes a customer design, runs it through their CAM system and simulates the cycle offline, in order to preserve valuable machine uptime.   Since the work here involves highly complex geometries on the turbine sections, the simulation must be equally complex and account for all machine motions and collision avoidance.   Once the program is finally determined for a part, it is fed over the Voith Hydro network to the appropriate machine tool or machining center for scheduling and production startup.  

During production, a system of real-time remote condition monitoring is available through the CNC for troubleshooting by both the Voith Hydro maintenance personnel and, when required, machine builder personnel, working offsite.  

Ward cites one example where an Ingersoll milling machine was completely retrofitted both mechanically and electrically by a Siemens Solution Partner, with a new CNC, motors, drives, encoders, other hardware and software.  "Working with the builder and Siemens support personnel, we were able to resolve issues and implement changes to the programming, right on the CNC of the machine…and all done remotely, in a very short time period."  

Voith Hydro boasts machining capabilities on workpieces over 42' diameter and 350 tons at the York facility.  Surface finishes are typically 250 and 125 Ra, though occasionally 64 or 32 Ra is required.  The finishes are achieved through both machining and secondary finishing operations, according to company sources.  

Adam Ward further notes that, on most new machines required at Voith Hydro, "The cross-training capability of the CNC, the standardization of the HMI on various types of machines, the support provided and the previous successes our operators and maintenance personnel have realized, all combine to make specifying Siemens as our control of choice an easy decision."  

Howard Weinstein, business development manager for the power industry manufacturing sector at Siemens, comments on the relationship with Voith, "We're a proud partner to Voith Hydro in York, Pennsylvania.  Their facility is a great showcase for our flagship CNC, the SINUMERIK 840D, as used on an array of multi-axis machining centers to produce large, complex geometry parts for the hydroelectric power industry."  

For more information on this story, please contact:

Siemens Industry, Inc.

Drive Technologies — Motion Control (Machine Tool)

390 Kent Avenue

Elk Grove Village, IL 60007

Phone: 847-640-1595

Fax: 847-437-0784

Web:  www.usa.siemens.com/cnc

Email:  SiemensMTBUMarCom.industry@siemens.com

Attention:  John Meyer, Manager, Marketing Communications

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