Controller lets machining center double as CMM for large aircraft-engine components

March 1, 2010
A five-axis machining center with a special controller can turn into a CMM for on-machine inspection.

An aerospace manufacturer uses a five axis-milling center to handle tasks formerly demanding CMMs and CAD/CAM software. The Zimmermann FZ42 five-axis, five-side portal milling center has a Siemens Sinumerik 840D CNC controller and a massive 120-position tool carriage that holds various HSK 63 and HSK 100 tools. These components let all roughing and subsequent finish passes take place in one set-up.

Along with the special controller and a large tool carriage, the machine tool also has side stations holding specialty spindle heads that can be swapped-out to perform tasks other than milling. "For example, after a part is cut, the machine controller turns the milling center into a coordinate measuring machine for on-machine inspection with a probe," says Volvo Aero Connecticut engineering manager Martin Thorden. "Users change the spindle, instead of the milling head, which ensures better repeatability." Special angled spindle heads that come with the Zimmerman support the CMM capability.

Volvo Aero Connecticut manufactures aircraft engine casings — probably the largest in the world — for the 11.5 ft-diameter GE90 aircraft-engine fan. The engine generates 127,900 lb of thrust to power Boeing 777s. Making parts such as these requires keeping a fine balance between high-speed, heavy-duty machining and tight tolerances. The Zimmerman targets fan casings for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner GEnx engine.

Special angled spindle heads along with a Siemens Sinumerik 840D CNC let the Zimmermann FZ42 machine tool turn into a CMM for on-machine inspection. Resources: Siemens Industry Inc., Elk Grove Village, Ill.,
Zimmermann Inc.
, Novi, Mich.,
Volvo Aero Connecticut
, Newington, Conn.,
About the Author

Leslie Gordon

Leslie serves as Senior Editor - 5 years of service. M.S. Information Architecture and Knowledge Management, Kent State University. BA English, Cleveland State University.

Work Experience: Automation Operator, TRW Inc.; Associate Editor, American Machinist. Primary editor for CAD/CAM technology.

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