Given the highly competitive environment global aerospace manufacturers operate within, as well as ensuring the precision capabilities of their quality control equipment, the speed and operational efficiency of the sector’s inspection aids are becoming ever more important.
The recent installation of an Accretech Surfcom Nex surface and contour measuring machine at the premises of Hill Helicopters illustrates the advantages aerospace manufacturers gain when they are able to achieve rapid, high-precision inspection results.
Staffordshire-based Hill Helicopters has pioneered a reimagined approach to delivering and supporting safe, luxury private aircraft ownership at an affordable price. The company calls this approach General Aviation 2.0. General Aviation 2.0 (GA2.0) extends far beyond the aircraft. It represents an end-to-end ownership experience delivering the aircraft customers have always wanted and combining it with all the support needed to get the best out of private aviation.
Dr Jason Hill, founder and CEO of Hill Helicopters recently unveiled the HX50, a new UK-built, five-seat, turbine-powered helicopter concept. To enable the efficient, high-precision surface and contour inspection of its in-house manufactured components, Hill Helicopters recently purchased a Surfcom Nex 240 DX-13 from Accretech UK.
Mark Webb, lead production engineer at Hill Helicopters says: “Hill Helicopters literature describes the HX50 as delivering a whole new experience in safety, performance, adventure, comfort and elegance.
“It isn’t a coincidence that safety comes first on this list of attributes and to ensure the highest safety standards we oversee a rigorous companywide quality regime. In addition to employing skilled quality personnel, we invest in the best available inspection equipment.
“The latest addition is the Surfcom Nex 240 DX-13. After searching for a high-precision, rapid-acting surface and contour measuring instrument, we concluded that this machine best met our demanding accuracy and efficiency standards. In addition to the performance of the instrument, Accretech’s reputation for producing high-quality machines, and for providing excellent levels of customer service, were major factors in our decision.”
He continues: “During the development and testing of components, the machine will be used by our machinists, production and quality engineers. Then, when we move into full production, we plan to purchase further Surfcom Nex machines for use on the shopfloor.
“Given the Surfcom Nex’s ability to provide high-precision surface and contour measuring results within production environments, it will be ideal for inspecting components throughout production runs and for generating and archiving FAIRs (first article inspection reports).
“As each of our helicopters have 38 different high-precision bearings, the new machines will be used to inspect the critical surface and contour specifications of all our manufactured bearings. In addition, they will be used on all other relevant in-house produced components. The impressive operational speed of the equipment means it will be able to keep pace with our high-precision surface and contour inspection needs as production volumes continue to grow.”
Building on the global success of the company’s previous Surfcom product, the Nex range is currently exceeding all anticipated sales projections. Rather than invest in two expensive, dedicated machines, Nex models allows users to achieve high-precision surface and contour measurements through the use of a single, cost-effective instrument. Moreover, as well as occupying much less space than two separate machines, the new range delivers up to 60% faster measurement processes.
Given the growing trend for component inspection to take place close to the point of manufacture, in addition to being ideal for use within temperature-controlled cleanrooms, due to their ability to deliver accurate results across a range of temperatures, the Nex range can also be employed within serial production environments.
The machines incorporate the use of a flexible hybrid detector that allow simultaneous contour and surface measurements to be made. Rather than use a traditional ballscrew assembly, Surfcom Nex machines employ a progressive linear drive system that ensures rapid, low-oscillation measurements with no disruptive noise and vibration.
Much of the success of the new range is based on the machines’ flexible modular platform. Rather than settle for a surface and contour measuring instrument that represents a near match for their requirements, potential customers are now able to specify a system that exactly meets their own specific needs.
For example, the Hill Helicopters’ machine was supplied with two separate detectors. In addition to an advanced hybrid detector that allows simultaneous high-precision contour and roughness measurements to be made in single pass, the DX-13 variant also features a high-resolution contour detector that provides an upwards and downwards measuring bias.
Tim Wood, Accretech SBS regional director, North Europe concludes: “Accretech products enable the high-precision tactile and non-contact measurement of a component’s surface roughness and profiles. Features such as roundness, flatness, levelness, concentricity, coaxiality, axial run-out, radial run-out, perpendicularity, cylindricity, parallelism and straightness can be measured.
“Thanks to their modular construction, our equipment can be adapted to meet individual requirements. As Hill Helicopters had several alternative suppliers to choose from, we were delighted to receive an order for a the Nex 240 DX-13 machine – an option that has a 700mm x 450mm granite bed and a column with 450mm of travel.
“To further aid precision, the Hill Helicopters model was also supplied with an integrated anti-vibration table.”