U.S. Air Force Endorses VoluMill

Early testing showed a 205 percent increase in metal removal rates for the pocketing operations on a GKN standard titanium alloy test component. The advanced tool path allowed additional features to be machined with fewer tools.

US Air Force Announces Sustainable Manufacturing Success with VoluMill.

["Sustainable Manufacturing is the creation of manufactured products that use processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, and are economically sound and safe for employees, communities, and consumers."] AF-MT is initially focusing on sustainable manufacturing for machining metallic component parts for aerospace structures and engines.

As part of an initial machining tool project, the AF worked with the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) and GKN Aerospace of St. Louis, MO, and conducted a sustainable machining cell project assessment in December 2010 that focused on minimizing and optimizing the inputs and outputs required to transform material into defense aerospace products that support fighters, transports, and helicopters.

The assessment delivered a roadmap for technology solutions to reduce operational energy consumption and waste products at various tiers within the manufacturing enterprise of GKN. The project was focus in three areas:

• Expendables, waste, and energy consumption
• Business case assessments to justify candidate projects for transitioning advanced efficient technologies
• Implementation the first of several identified advanced technologies at GKN and quantified the benefits.

Volumill Software Implementation

The NCDMM and GKN investigated a variety of software packages to maximize machine efficiencies and improve titanium alloy bulk removal rate. As part of the investigation, the team obtained a one month free trial of Volumill software from Swoosh Technologies to evaluate the software capabilities and conduct machining trials using the Sustainable Machining Cell. Volumill is an ultra-high performance tool path optimization technology that improves the tool path using high-speed continuous tangential motion rather than sharp, interrupted movements. Benefits also include maximizing the time a cutting tool is engaged with a work piece, stabilizing the cutting conditions, increased metal removal rates, decreased power spikes, reduced energy consumption, and increased tool life.

Early testing showed a 205 percent increase in metal removal rates for the pocketing operations on a GKN standard test component. A review of the machine tool load indicated a reduction in per unit power consumption as well as overall power consumption during the machining operation. Finally, the advanced tool path allowed additional features to be machined with fewer tools. A more complete analysis is required to fully quantify the benefits of this software and additional trials are planned for the next phase of the project. By combining this with other advanced technologies such as extreme high flute cutting tools, the team is confident they will be able to safely double machine output, extend tool life, reduce energy consumption and machine downtime, while creating a much more productive and competitive manufacturing enterprise in the global marketplace.

About AF MT
The Air Force (AF) Manufacturing Technology (MT) Program is fulfilling Department of Defense, AF, and industry strategic intent for sustainability by maturing sustainable manufacturing practices. This enhances the production capability necessary to fabricate weapon systems with reduced resource consumption utilizing environmentally sustainable processes while preserving performance requirements. AF MT is studying methods to accelerate adoption of a sustainable manufacturing philosophy within the defense aerospace industry to ensure that it is on the leading edge of addressing the social, resource conservation, and environmental stewardship challenges. As first steps, AF MT will:
• identify, analyze, and document methods, tools, and equipment used in industry to perform sustainability assessments for the defense aerospace industry,
• mature and adapt quantitative and qualitative tools that will enable the aerospace industry to identify sustainable manufacturing opportunities throughout the enterprise when making manufacturing decisions,
• develop a consensus within industry of sustainability metrics that can be applied across the aerospace enterprise, and
• integrate assessment tools into standard operating procedures for validation of manufacturing improvement results.