From the standpoint of machine designers, builders, and end-users, the aerospace market seems to be moving at a hypersonic pace. With demand for military as well as commercial aircraft continuing to grow, the demand for speed to market is pushing not only the machine tool companies themselves but also such allies as Siemens Energy & Automation Inc.
"I've never seen it before," says Tim Sharer, Siemens director of aerospace. "I've been in and around the industry for years, and I've never seen the commercial and defense aerospace airframe segments hitting stride at the same time. And I'm talking in terms of just airframe components right now. If you go over to the jet engine side, they're going through a very similar challenge. Remember, for every airplane that you build there's at least one engine, and usually two engines, that go along with it. That capacity, with blisks and so forth, is highly reliant on five-axis machining."
In turn, today's machining community--in effect, a global network building parts for everything from F-35s and Boeing jetliners--looks to a company such as Siemens for an arsenal of technological advancements. Siemens has gladly obliged with such products as SINUMERIK 840D CNC as well as with what the company calls "advanced services," including:
* Virtual Production, through which virtual machining and optimization during simulation replaces any repeated test machining of the workpiece on a machine. As the automation solutions company boasts, "using in-house-developed simulation software, optimization is possible even in the preparatory phase of production."
* Mechatronic Support, which plays on the company's promise to customers to be "faster to the machine, faster on the market." For Siemens, this means going beyond mechatronic products and systems; it is pushing a service envelope "by configuring, developing, and testing the mechanical, electronic, and computer science components in interdisciplinary teams."
* EPS Condition Monitoring, with Web-based services that record plant status and allow for predictive maintenance.
* In today's aero market, every advantage is critical. As Shafer notes, "What l see in the aerospace market is robust growth in five-axis machining and composite technologies for the next two or three years."
New materials, from titanium to aluminum alloys, are part of the aerospace manufacturing scene, creating new cutting, tooling, and workholding challenges. Moreover,...