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Green cell fixturing takes flight

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As volumes and demand have increased, the aerospace industry has had to balance the demands of more diverse machining with improved component accuracy. This has resulted in a move towards the automation of workholding to reduce machining cycles and manual interaction, remove variation and increase RFT: driving the development of the ‘green button‘ process used so successfully within the automotive industry.

So, when a leading aerospace company decided to invest in green button efficiency, it looked to two global companies to help realise the project. RINGSPANN UK LTD was chosen to deliver the hydraulic fixtures and Roemheld (UK) Ltd was selected to supply the zero point and hydraulic clamping components. A main reason that these companies were selected was that, due to their global reach, wherever in the world the fixtures were used they would be able to offer ongoing service and support to the end user.

For many years, RINGSPANN UK LTD has been well-known for offering power transmission and workholding products to the aerospace, automotive, rail, medical, power generation and renewable industries, but this contract called upon its project management skills as a complete solution provider. To meet the demands of the contract, the company had to invest in specialist resources including a programme manager and supply chain manager. The company also took the decision to increase its in-house design team.

Richard Slow, LTA Management for RINGSPANN UK LTD, said: “This project required us to be innovative in our fixturing design, as it demanded complex solutions incorporating intelligent control via RFID. We were developing fixtures that adapted to different components and were sequencing intelligently to clamp to different pressures – all at just the push of a button.“

The expanded RINGSPANN UK LTD in-house design team, incorporating four seats of Unigraphics NX and solidworks 3D modelling, was tasked with creating these special purpose fixtures: each bespoke but offering the same high levels of repeatability and accuracy. There was also an ongoing requirement to adapt to the evolving need of the customer as the project progressed. To meet these stringent demands, RINGSPANN UK LTD consulted with Roemheld throughout the project. The RINGSPANN UK LTD team was keen to take Roemheld standard products and use them in both standard and non-standard ways and Roemheld worked closely with RINGSPANN UK LTD throughout to assist in the design and planning of the fixtures.

Andrew Bailey, Lead Designer for RINGSPANN UK LTD, said: “Although the client specified Roemheld at the outset, they were also our first choice because our companies have a long history of collaboration. We knew that that Roemheld components would offer the quality, flexibility, longevity and technical support that this project demanded. Top end fixtures require top end components that will keep on performing and we know all the Roemheld components we used are guaranteed to a million cycles.“

Both companies were able to draw upon the years of expertise of their German parent organisations in design, technical innovation and manufacturing. This international collaboration ensured no break in continuity and enabled the teams to cross over seamlessly.

As a result of months of hard work and collaboration, RINGSPANN UK LTD has delivered in excess of 100 bespoke features to date, with the project set to run until 2015. To ensure only the highest quality fixtures were delivered, RINGSPANN UK LTD introduced a rigorous 5-stage inspection process, including on-site inspection ensuring the fixtures could be rejected at any stage of the process.

Phil Hewitt, RINGSPANN UK LTD’s newly-appointed General Manager, said: Our job was to act as a facilitator to add value and pull together all the elements of the supply chain. We invested in developing our in-house team to manage the workflow as we found that using contractors just did not work, as it was such a steep learning curve. We now have a very strong team of specialists which has added immensely to our ability to offer a complete project management service.“

Terry O‘Neill, Joint Managing Director of Roemheld, said: “We have worked very closely with RINGSPANN UK LTD throughout this venture and assisted in the design and planning every step of the way to ensure we supply the right product solutions.“

To date, it is estimated that the introduction of the new fixtures alongside improvements to the production environment has resulted in a 70% reduction in set-up times and a 50% reduction in machining times.

To find out more about RINGSPANN UK LTD, telephone 01234 342590 or visit www.ringspann.co.uk