For more than 50 years, Turbine Technologies of Farmington, Conn., has produced vital components for the aerospace and gas turbine industries, including both commercial and military applications. The most common components include turbine blades and vanes, which require profile machining and the production of cooling holes.
While older EDM technologies used in Turbine Technologies’ Connecticut shop were still capable of making parts that meet legacy customers’ requirements, the company was not equipped to grow with its customers’ expansion plans. Some of the company’s largest customers had big plans for growth, and needed their suppliers to keep pace in these areas:
• More advanced manufacturing capabilities
• Closer proximity to their assembly plants
• Assurances that suppliers were prepared to increase production, improve quality and speed up delivery
To meet these requirements, Tyler Burke, a career military officer who retired from active duty to succeed his father as president and CEO of Turbine Technologies in 2013, set out to invest in advanced electrical discharge machining (EDM) capabilities and expand operations to other regions of the country.
Burke paid close attention to which of the EDM platforms would prepare Turbine Technologies to meet the following objectives:
• Automate operations
• Integrate individual machines into manufacturing cells
• Connect the machines to other business or production systems
Research led Turbine Technologies to seek a partnership with an EDM supplier that was capable of networking and automating many of the company’s machining processes. These requirements resulted in Turbine Technologies choosing Makino as its sole supplier for EDM machines and selecting SST for consumables.
In 2015, Turbine Technologies updated its Connecticut facility with two EDBV3 EDM hole-drilling machines and a larger EDBV8 model—machines specifically designed for production of cooling holes and diffuser shapes within blades and vanes for the aerospace and power-generation applications. Subsequent investments included a U1310 wire EDM, several EDAF2 sinker EDMs and an F3 graphite machining center for electrode production. They then set up a second shop in Greenville, S.C., in 2016, outfitting it with over a half dozen EDAF3 sinker EDMs and numerous EDBV3 and EDBV8 EDM hole-drilling machines.
Turbine Technologies’ investments in Makino equipment have enabled the company to significantly improve the performance and efficiency of its operations while scaling capabilities to meet customer demand.
Compared to previous hole-drilling technologies, the EDBV machines have provided substantial increases in unattended machining reliability, even in hole diameters as small as 60 thousandths. Their unique tooling system has an integrated tool and guide change design featuring one common assembly, enabling 30-second tool and guide changes. A 2-axis rotary table further improves efficiency with single-setup operations for parts with angular features. The machines’ proprietary back-strike prevention technology ensures internal workpiece quality for proper airflow and cooling within the part. Together, these technologies enable Turbine Technologies to have one operator manage four EDBV EDM hole-drilling machines simultaneous.
Turbine Technologies’ EDAF-Series sinker EDM machines have yielded similar reliability while improving cycle times in existing part orders. Side-by-side testing of one application demonstrated a 50 percent cycle-time reduction compared to previous technologies, with four times the electrode life.
To improve user friendliness and operator efficiency, all-new Makino EDM machines feature a unified control system called Hyper-i. The Hyper-i control has intuitive, intelligent and interactive functions with touch-screen functionality for a simplified user interface. Turbine Technologies’ operators, both young and old, have quickly learned to run the machines, thanks to the simple-to-follow controls, on-board tutorials and preprogrammed cycles.
Following the company’s investment in an F3 graphite machining center with rotary table, Turbine Technologies has also seen improvements in the speed and quality of its graphite electrode production. Compared to the company’s previous vertical mills, the F3 has contributed to cycle-time improvements up to 70 percent in some applications. In one application, cycle times were reduced from 20 minutes to just six minutes.
With the U1310, Turbine Technologies was able to improve the cycle time of one component by 120 percent compared to previous processes. These improvements and more have led the company to become a critical supplier and partner for leading aerospace and energy market OEMs.