Landing-gear production at Bowmill

Major investment as Bowmill Engineering launches new aerospace manufacturing plant

Posted on 18 Jun 2017 and read 1604 times
Landing-gear production at BowmillIn its design and fit-out of a new factory to manufacture Airbus landing-gear kits, Poole-based Bowmill Engineering Ltd has opted to purchase eight brand-new machining centres from the Wellesbourne-based Engineering Technology Group (

Bowmill’s new high-volume plant is in Tewkesbury, close to four of its major landing-gear customers in nearby Gloucester.

At its main factory in Poole, where it operates a dedicated kanban facility, Bowmill has been manufacturing Airbus A320 and A330 landing-gear kits since 2002, as well as complex com-ponents and assemblies for other OEMs.

The cornerstone of the machining set-up for Class 1 critical parts is an ETG-supplied Chiron FZ15FX five-axis machining centre, which features a ‘basket’ tool changer around the spindle to ensure fast tool changes.

This machine was installed following a review of Bowmill’s manufacturing capabilities, in which the advantages of progressing from multi-operation methods using a low-cost machine base to an advanced-technology manufacturing system were thoroughly assessed.

Once installed, this machine allowed Bowmill to adopt what it calls a ‘slave link’ machining technique, whereby billet materials used for creating larger components such as brackets featuring apertures have most of the material removed as a solid ‘scrap’ billet that can be used to manufacture a smaller component, considerably reducing raw-material waste. This Chiron has also reduced machining times by 21%, defects by 7% and raw-material usage by 28%.

Machine upgrade

After 18 months’ successful operation with the FZ15FX, Bowmill decided to upgrade it with the addition of an FZ12 Flexcell Uno automated manufacturing/robotic system for ‘lights out’ operations. This addition allowed a further 12 A320 prismatic kit components to be moved to the machine.

Many of the smaller kit components manufactured in Poole (there are over 220 different items in some kits) are machined on ETG-supplied Nakamura Tome mill/turn machines; Bowmill has six of these, including three AS 200 machines and a heavy-duty SC 300L. Completing the inventory of machines are two Quaser MV154 three-axis VMCs equipped with Nikken rotary tables to give a fourth-axis capability.

The new factory in Tewkesbury has similarities to Bowmill’s Poole facility; it includes a Chiron FZ15FX with the FZ12 Flexcell Uno robotic automation system, a pair of Nakamura Tome mill/turn machines and five new Quaser MV154s — all equipped with Nikken fourth-axis rotary tables.

bowmill 2Bowmill’s managing director, Nick Epps, says: “There has been a considerable increase in the build rate of kits, due to the on-going success of the A320/A321 neo and an upsurge in A330 popularity.

“Unusually for the aerospace sector, Bowmill is the single source global supplier of A320 kits, but contract obligations necessitate that we operate from two distinct manufacturing centres – hence the new Tewkesbury plant.

“Being close to our Tier One customers — Safran Landing Systems and Triumph Actuation Systems UK Ltd — has been logistically important for kanban operation. Moreover, customer demands in this sector are exceptional in terms
of quality, delivery, support and cost.

“Indeed, we are expected to deliver ‘cost-downs’, which we achieve through more-efficient and advanced manufacturing.”

Initially, the Tewkesbury plant will concentrate on A320 kits, with Phase 2 — accommodating components for other OEMs — coming on-line later this year. Kits manufactured by Bowmill are quality-checked and assembled into bespoke interlocking kit containers for delivery to customers in the UK and Europe.

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