Aero Structures Technology Days 2018 - New manufacturing solutions for structural components

Turnover in the aerospace industry has been increasing for several years now. In order to be able to meet the demand for aircraft components, manufacturers and suppliers are constantly required to put their production materials and strategies to the test and find new, even more efficient manufacturing solutions. The Aero Structures Technology Days 2018 on 23 and 24 January held by Starrag in collaboration with Kennametal were a rich source of inspiration.

160 participants from 45 different companies and a total of 16 countries travelled to Rorschacherberg on Lake Constance. Customers came from Asia, America and Europe, from aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing, Airbus and Pilatus, as well as numerous small and large suppliers. Their motivation: an update on state-of-the-art production possibilities for structural components. Their questions: How do we optimise unit costs? How can we ensure the high quality of components? How can we reduce our machining times?

Starrag and Kennametal already had practical answers to hand. Ultimately, the aerospace industry is one of the main markets for Starrag, who is a global technological leader in the manufacturing of precision machine tools. Aerospace companies also belong to the core target group for internationally renowned tool manufacturer Kennametal.

“We have been working together for a very long time and have gained numerous joint projects for structural components,” emphasises Dr. Norbert Hennes, Head of Starrag business unit “Aerospace & Energy”. “In this respect, Kennametal is an ideal partner to host our Aero Structures Technology Days”. After all, this was not only about showing Starrag machines, but also presenting functional solutions that make users more productive.

Trade meeting at Starrag in Rorschacherberg: Customers came from Asia, America and Europe for updates on state-of-the-art production possibilities for structural components.

Dr. Norbert Hennes, Starrag: “Our Aero Structures Technology Days are not only about demonstrating Starrag machines, but also presenting functional solutions that make users more productive.”

“Every machine tool requires a tool and likewise, no tool works without a machine”, agrees Laurent Bigot, Vice President Sales & Marketing Industrial EMEA at Kennametal Europe, with: “The challenges of the aviation industry are best met in partnership with a company like Starrag. I am convinced that we offer the best tools for a variety of requirements, as Starrag’s portfolio includes ideal machine solutions. Here, we demonstrate together how customers can benefit from our collaboration in numerous applications”.

Dr. Norbert Hennes

On a Starrag LX 051, the Inconel engine mount structure can be fully machined in a single clamping operation.

New ways of cutting

Demonstrations at seven stations take the huge variety in the production of structural components into consideration: different materials such as aluminium, titanium and super alloys, and small and large components and series. Starrag and Kennametal worked together to demonstrate the challenges of the respective task and announce their jointly developed solution – including all process data and a clear presentation of the potential for optimisation. In addition, lubricant supplier Blaser and tool clamping specialist Haimer GmbH presented their products at a partner stand.

There is no doubt that one of the highlights was the new path that Starrag and Kennametal are taking to save time in the machining of an Iconel engine mount. It begins with the selection of the LX 051 machining center and the clamping operation on a swivel rotary table, which reduces the number of clamping operations from four to just one. Milling tools with ceramic cutters and made of solid carbide ensure effective cutting of the forging blank measuring 0.39 to 1.57 inches. The result is impressive: Instead of the previous processing time of around 50 hours, the component is now fully roughed and smoothed in 13.9 hours.

Demonstrations showed participants how efficient machining titanium can be. First of all, specially designed Kennametal tools impress in their sector (for 2D roughing with a removal rate of 30.21 inches3/min and 5-axis roughing with 17.57 inches3/min). Next, efficient milling of a pocket with undercut attracted a lot of attention. The core element: the compact swivel milling head of an STC 1250, which enables processing with shorter and therefore more stable tools.

Teamwork between Starrag and Kennametal: Participants received detailed information about processes, machines and tools – in this case efficient titanium machining.

Considerable interest was generated by the new modular ECOFORCE Ti 9/13 machining centers, which are currently almost unrivalled in terms of performance and time. The choice of horizontal pallets (from 157.48 × 39.37 inches up to 314.96 × 98.43 inches for loads of 11,023.11 to 26,455.47 lb) enables large titanium structural components to be machined. The stiffer gear spindle – especially in comparison to motor spindles – with a maximum 8,000 rpm and 940 Nm S1 torque or 5,600 rpm and 1,300 rpm Nm S1 torque ensures efficient roughing and finishing. In conjunction with appropriate Kennametal tools, users benefit from tremendous machining rates of up to 45.77 inches3/min for titanium.

The new 150 kW Ecospeed spindle promises repeatable cutting rates of over 732.29 inches3/min – in aluminum – that can replace the tried-and-tested 120 kW Ecospeed spindle (82 Nm, 30,000 rpm). It is used in both the new STC 800 X machining center as well as the Sprint Z3 parallel kinematic machining head of the Ecospeed machines.

For example, the versatile five-axis STC 800 X machining center rounds off the Ecospeed series – putting Starrag’s claim “Engineering precisely what you value” into practice. At the Aero Structure Technology Days, the STC 800 X proved in live demonstrations exactly why it is a go-to solution for aluminum parts up to 55.12 inches. A design optimized for maximum dynamics and the shortest chip-to-chip times both ensure high productivity. The tool magazine designed for up to 465 tools ensures flexibility, among other things.


Dr. Bernhard Bringmann, Starrag: ”More and more customers ask us for intelligent FMS systems”.

A step towards new production dimensions

Flexible manufacturing systems are enjoying increasing popularity thanks to growing series sizes as well as the desire for automated production and assured quality. For over 25 years, Starrag has developed these so-called FMS (Flexible Manufacturing Systems) and assumed responsibility for all elements and the entire process – from machines, equipment and tools through to the automatic set-up and handling of workpieces by robots, and even the cell controller. In Rorschacherberg, an FMS demonstrated how complex the task definitions can be – after delivery it will machine more than 35,000 Iconel or titanium turbine blades right through to completion via a fully automated process.

Starrag also develops and installs customer-specific FMS globally for housings, wing profiles and structural components. The second technology day provided a live example, in which Pilatus Aircraft Ltd gave participants a glimpse of state-of-the-art aircraft construction. Pilatus develops and builds aircraft in Stans (a canton of Nidwalden) that are delivered all over the world: from the best-selling single-engine turboprop aircraft PC-12 right up to the PC-24 – the world’s first business jet that is able to operate on short, unprepared runways.

With the commercial viability of the PC-24, production capacity has reached a new highpoint, but this also has consequences. The new business jet, as with all other Pilatus aircraft, consists of numerous aluminum structural components from the nose to the tail fin and wingtips, so the decision was made to move in a new direction for a large part of the machining. Pilatus installed a Starrag FMS with two identically equipped Ecospeed F 2040 machining centers for aluminum structural components between 29.53 inches and 157.48 inches in length and significantly increased production capacity in comparison to the previous solution.

The theme of Aero Structures Technology Days 2018 organised by Starrag and Kennametal: How can structural components be manufactured in an even more productive way?

As part of the scope of supply, Starrag provides the project planning and engineering of the whole FFS, which includes a pallet handling system with 16 pallets of 78.74 × 157.48 inches in addition to the machining centers. Furthermore, the system also features two set-up stations with a tilting table to allow horizontal loading. The highly-automated production is supported by another product developed and supplied by the Starrag Group: a production cell controller. This manages the interaction of the machine duo with pallet and set-up stations. In addition, all turnkey foundation work is carried out by Starrag.

Dr. Bernhard Bringmann, Managing Director at the Starrag Rorschacherberg site, explains: “More and more customers are asking for these intelligent FMS systems”. A new customer, who is convinced by the Starrag concept, is the keynote speaker of the event – Charlie Newell, CEO of Orizon Aerostructures. His company produces and supplies large, complex metal structural components and main components to leading airframe manufacturers.

He ordered an FMS for a new production facility with a total of seven interlinked Ecospeed F 2060 machining centers. The F stands for fixed columns and 2060 indicates a pallet size of 78.74 × 236.22 inches. “The manufacturing system was fully planned by us and is equipped with our cell computer architecture,” stated Bernhard Bringmann. “It took only 18 months from receipt of order to delivery of the last machine in December 2017.” Charlie Newell not only confirmed the technical competence of Starrag in his speech, he also highlighted a further important factor for him: “The concept of teamwork plays a significant role in our company’s philosophy. Therefore, we are delighted to have found a business partner in Starrag that not only supplies machines but also supports us in close collaboration with regard to application technology and programming.”