Triumph Structures Enhances Productivity with 5-Axis Aluminum Machining Technology

Triumph Structures–Wichita is a division of Triumph Group, a global leader in manufacturing and overhauling aerospace structures, systems and components. In Wichita, Kan., Triumph makes a variety of jet aircraft and helicopter parts, including large aluminum wing skins, spars and ribs. Some of the billets start out as large as 3,000 pounds and 17 feet long.

To produce these enormous, monolithic structural components, Triumph had traditionally used a gantry-style vertical mill. However, due to issues with thermal stabilization resulting from a lack of internal climate-control capabilities, the machine struggled to maintain repeatable precision. And while programmers and operators were able to compensate for these issues, it required extra time and frequent temperature readings. Moreover, the machine’s lack of an automatic pallet changer created substantial periods of downtime during part changeovers.

The company understood that in order to improve quality, consistency, productivity and profitability, it would need to invest in a more capable machine platform.  

Based on the success of its past Makino installations, Triumph Structures–Wichita decided to invest in the first Makino A6 5-axis horizontal machining center in the United States.

While few machines are big enough to handle the types of parts that Triumph produces, workpiece capacity wasn’t the only factor that led to the company’s purchasing the A6. The A6 also features a 33,000-rpm spindle and similar design to Makino’s popular MAG-Series machines, which are renowned for their speed and productivity in large aluminum components. Additionally, its HVAC system maintains a constant temperature in the spindle, tooling and workpiece for sustained accuracy over long periods of machine operation.

The A6 is equipped with two exterior worktables, where operators can set up pallets with any combination of jobs. Once setups are complete, the worktable is raised into a vertical position and shuttled into the A6 just as soon as processing of another part finishes.  
In addition to the A6, Triumph purchased Makino’s MPmax software to monitor machine performance. Through MPmax, the company has observed significant improvements in cutting performance, including metal-removal rates frequently reaching 1,600 inches per minute. In many part applications transferred from the gantry-style machines, cycle times have been reduced by 40 to 50 percent.

Precision and quality have also improved with repeatable tolerances of plus or minus 0.0001 inch and surface finishes of Ra32—four times greater than what the company’s customers require. In many cases, this has helped reduce the need for secondary finishing operations.

In the first four months of production on the A6, the company has been able to move more parts from the slower gantry-style machine onto the A6, as well as win new commercial and military orders.

Other recent Makino investments made by Triumph Structures–Wichita have performed equally as well. The T2 machines enable Triumph to machine titanium and steel parts at a cutting feedrate of up to 630 inches per minute. Meanwhile, the company’s MAG3 cells with MMC2 pallet-handling systems have enabled Triumph to run large aluminum parts 24/7 with an overall equipment effectiveness [OEE] of 85 percent.

By the middle of 2017, Triumph is expected to own 18 Makino machines, including the A6, three T2 5-axis horizontal machining centers for landing-gear trunnions and other hard-metal parts, and 14 MAG3 5-axis horizontal machining centers for high-productivity machining of aluminum aerospace parts.