Turning to aerospace

27 Jan 2020

Engineering capacity news posted by Andy Sandford

A new large-capacity vertical turning lathe is helping subcontractor Unilathe Ltd consolidate and grow its aerospace business.

The machine, a Fanuc controlled Doosan VT1100 suppled by Mills CNC, was installed at Unilathe’s 82,000 square foot facility in August 2019 and has been positioned adjacent to another Doosan VT1100 machine to create a flexible, high-productivity vertical turning cell.

Since being installed the new Doosan VT1100 vertical turning lathe has been used to machine a range of complex, high-precision and performance-critical components for customers operating in the aerospace, oil and gas, off-highway, mining, rail and special industrial equipment sectors.

These components, machined in small batches, are large, heavy and awkward-shaped.

They are made from hard and difficult-to-machine materials that include titanium, inconels, nickel-based alloys, Heat Resistant Super Alloys (HRSA) and Jethete (a corrosion-resistant, hardened and tempered steel) etc., - to name but a few.

A primary objective behind the new investment was Unilathe’s desire to secure new aerospace business.

Andrew Sims, Unilathe’s managing director, says: “We have been active in the aerospace sector for a number of years and have an international reputation in the sector for quality, lead time fulfilment and cost competitiveness.

“Our ambition is to significantly grow this side of our business and to strengthen our position in the supply chain.”

To do this Unilathe has implemented a number of strategies including becoming a member of the North West Aerospace Alliance, gaining AS900 accreditation and using and leveraging the skills, experience and knowledge acquired from working in other sectors to help raise its profile.

Andrew Sims says: “We want to move away from being perceived as a company that only offers first and second stage machining of castings and forgings to one that can machine and deliver high integrity components from start to finish to aerospace customers - similar to what we provide for customers in other sectors and industries.”

Integral to the success of Unilathe’s repositioning strategy is ensuring the company has access to the right machine tools. A strategic audit undertaken by the company examined its internal machining capabilities and revealed that its future aerospace ambitions would be well served by strengthening its vertical turning capacity and, in particular, by acquiring an additional vertical lathe adept at undertaking roughing, semi-finishing and finishing operations on aerospace components like rings, seals, rotor shafts etc.