The machine, known as a StarragHeckert BTP5000, is able to produce titanium components over three metres long to tolerances that equate to a third the thickness of a human hair. It is the most advanced of its kind in the world and sets new standards for high-end manufacturing in the UK.The components are used in the manufacture of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – the rear section of which is built at Samlesbury by BAE Systems before being shipped to Lockheed Martin in America.
The precise tolerances delivered by the new machine ensure that the outer shape of the F-35 matches up to the exacting standards needed to make an aircraft that meets the required low observability (stealth) performance capability demanded by Lockheed Martin.
The machine, which sits in a temperature and humidity controlled manufacturing facility which exactly matches that of the final assembly facility run by Lockheed Martin in America, is referred to as the Long Spar Longeron Machine, owing to the long spar and longeron sections built to machine. Featuring twin spindles the machine is capable of machining two parts at the same time meaning double the efficiency. At peak rate production aircraft sets will be produced at a rate of one a day.
The initial concept for the machine was born out of a discussion between BAE Systems and StarragHeckert machine tools which looked at ways to deliver a more accurate and effective machining method for long titanium parts. The machine has now been extensively tested and recently produced two components at the same time to exactly the same standard..
The success of this project has been made possible only through a true team working approach and this not only reflects on the partnering and relationship between BAE Systems and StarragHeckert, but also the team work within the respective companies. Much hard work has been injected into this project for a prolonged period of time (5 years) and this has also been reflected in the fact that the project and has been delivered safely, on time and within the budget constraints.
Head of Machining Operations, Simon Bee, said: “The BTP5000 machine is a fantastic addition to the facility. Whilst the story from its inception to delivering parts is significant in its own right, it’s also part of a much bigger story too. We’re at the heart of establishing new standards for assembly precision and pace on the F35 programme. We’ve hosted numerous visits to the facility since it opened just a year ago and each time it’s immediately visible for visitors that this facility is a real step up from what they have seen before.
“It’s a great example of BAE Systems remaining at the forefront of aerospace manufacturing. The BT5000 machine is another chapter in the story.”
The Long Spars and Longerons machine is the first of two machines to be installed in the machining facility. The second is planned to begin installation in 2014.
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