In search of increased productivity

A brief review of the Technology Days 2023, which offered numerous approaches to solutions

The Aerospace & Turbine Technology Days at Starrag in Rorschacherberg are a first-class event for production managers and employees in these industries. Because here they not only get to see machines, they are also offered solutions that ensure efficient and reliable production. No less valuable are the discussions with the experts from Starrag and partners who effectively improve production processes down to the last detail in joint projects.

150 customers from 17 countries attended this year’s Aerospace & Turbine Technology Days. They were welcomed by Martin Buyle, who has been CEO of Starrag Group since 1 April 2023 and was previously responsible for the realignment of the large-scale machine business as Managing Director of Starrag Technology. “In our group of companies, and especially at the Rorschacherberg site, we have been closely associated with the aviation and energy sectors for many years and have built a great deal of application know-how,” explains Martin Buyle. “Our employees pass on this knowledge to the Technology Days – with a passion that always makes this event very special.” Christian Kurtenbach, manager of the Rorschacherberg site, also ascribes great importance to the event’s solution approach: “We’re not here to sell machines. The focus is on our customers and their needs. Together with many interesting partners, we show solutions on how to improve processes and reduce cost-per-part.” Christian Kurtenbach has been in charge of the new “High Performance Machining Systems” business unit, which includes the Ecospeed, Heckert, Starrag and TTL product ranges, since June 2023. He points out that the Technology Days are increasingly becoming a Group event. This year, Droop+Rein and Berthiez machines were also involved in the projects presented.

Collect information, exchange experiences

Collect information, exchange experiences on site demonstrate that the solution-oriented concept of the Technology Days, which are taking place for the 14th time this year, is well received by customers. For example, a production manager responsible for the production of turbine blades confirmed that Starrag does not just supply excellent machines for this task, but also outstanding technology. Here on site, he and his colleagues have the opportunity to get to know the latest developments that also affect the periphery, such as robotics, mould handling and sensor technology. He believes this is an important topic for discussion that could initiate progress in the company. Asian visitors also shared the opinion that they get a lot of ideas on how to develop the technology of their business at the Technology Days. They also emphasized that the exchange of experience with other production companies and potential customers is extremely valuable for them.

“The focus is on our customers and their needs”

The above all positive atmosphere this year was welcoming recovery following the challenging COVID years. One of the many Starrag customers who had travelled from the USA explained that his company – which specializes in structural components made of aluminum – was suffering, like many others, from a shortage of skilled workers. That is why he is on the lookout for automated manufacturing solutions. His statement: “I have already found a great deal of inspiration here in a short period of time.”

How do I lower the cost per part?

Twelve stations were set up dealing with machining tasks that are important in the aerospace and energy industries. The process idea and the ways to reduce unit costs were always the key focus. A world premiere attracted special attention: the Starrag STC 1250 HD horizontal machining center, whose horizontal linear axes are mounted hydrostatically (see also article on page 12). Frictionless, wear-free, extremely rigid and highly damped – these properties make it ideal for fiveaxis heavy machining of titanium structural components. The new STC 1250 HD achieves up to three times the material removal rate during roughing than its roller-bearing predecessor model. The improved dynamics come into play during finishing, ensuring excellent precision and surface quality. The result: shorter machining times and less tool wear lead to lower unit costs – despite a higher purchase price. Another advantage is that the Starrag STC 1250 HD consumes less energy during roughing. This can be explained as follows: The greater cutting depth reduces the roughing time. In this way, the user saves part of the previously required drive power plus basic load – despite higher power consumption – and, depending on the component, lower energy consumption is achieved. Keynote speaker Dr Matthias Lange, Head of Research and Technology at Premium Aerotec, Varel, also referred to such energy-saving potential. In his presentation, he addressed the topics of sustainability, energy efficiency and CO2 footprint in the aircraft industry. His conclusion was that the greatest potential for savings in the production of aluminum and titanium components lies in the blanks and their machining. As far as cutting is concerned, he recommends in particular higher feed rates, because – as shown when using the Starrag STC 1250 HD – less energy is required per volume cut.

Automation solutions in demand like never before

Impressive process improvements could also be experienced at all other stations. A selection: Recent Starrag FMS (Flexible Manufacturing Systems) developments demonstrated how machines from different Starrag brands complement each other to form an FMS that combines different technologies such as milling (on a Starrag STC) and turning (on a Berthiez TVU). Visitors were most interested in the details – such as the cell computer developed by Starrag or the fully automatic tool management system implemented together with Haimer and Broetje, which offers great potential for savings, particularly in titanium machining. Automation was also the theme for the Starrag LX 021. The machining center is used for high-precision, efficient 5-axis machining of turbine blades. Equipped with a bar loader, it can work unattended for up to 24 hours. A special feature of this solution is the process control with force measurement from partner pro-micron and the patented spike technology.

This enables measuring and visualization of the forces directly on each tool cutting edge. Another example of automation was highly productive pocket milling on an Ecospeed machining center. The partner company Hexagon equipped this with state-of-the-art measuring technology, including an ultrasonic probe for thickness measurement. The manual version is not reliable enough to ensure a measuring accuracy of ± 30 μm. On the other hand, the Hexagon probe, which can be exchanged like a measuring probe, ensures maximum process reliability. Automated solutions for temperaturemeasurement and laser scanning of the surface also give rise to safe, time-saving processes.