Process optimisation and security

Supplier of titanium stock and components invests in multi-sump fluid management system

Posted on 29 Nov 2017 and read 1095 times
Process optimisation and securityVSMPO Tirus Ltd — the UK-based sales, distribution and service centre of the global VSMPO-Avisma Corporation, which has its headquarters in Russia — supplies titanium stock and pre-machined semi-finished products.

Required in a variety of sizes, forms and quantities, these are for a diverse and growing range of UK customers operating primarily in the aerospace sector.

The company’s operations in Redditch provide warehousing and stock management (over three months of stock is held at any given time) for companies that include Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Bombardier and GKN.

It has long-term agreements with many of its customers, to ensure that they have a secure supply of titanium.

Moreover, an increasing number of VSMPO Titus’s customers are relying on the company’s ‘machining’ services — the supply of cut-to-size and part-machined titanium components.

Initially, these added-value services mainly comprised sawing, profiling and shearing titanium ingots, bar, plate and sheet using bandsaws, a large-capacity dual-head water-jet machine and a high-speed shearing machine. More recently, the company bought three CNC machining centres, which are used for first machining operations — high stock removal from primary forms, and the machining of fixture points and clamping holes/bores on titanium components — before delivery.

VSMPO Tirus’s managing director, Colin Whitehouse, said: “By supplying customers with high-precision pre-machined parts, we take the pressure off their machining operations. Our services help them save production time by freeing-up their machines to perform high-value more-intricate machining and finishing operations.”

Machining titanium

Titanium is a popular and proven material for the aerospace, marine and medical industries. Parts made from it are stronger than their steel counterparts, while weighing half as much.

jmetech 1Furthermore, titanium components have twice the elasticity of steel parts, which makes them suitable for applications requiring ‘flexible’ components that do not crack or disintegrate under extreme forces.

They also resist corrosion better than parts made from stainless steels; and like steel, titanium offers manufacturing flexibility, because it can be readily cast or forged into various shapes.

That said, titanium does pose several manufacturing challenges. Because it is a poor thermal conductor, heat generated during the cutting process does not dissipate, resulting in temperatures up to 2,000°F in the cutting zone.

Such temperatures can quickly dull cutting tools, resulting in even more heat and further shortening tool life.

The material’s elasticity also causes problems, as it ‘springs’ away from the cutting tool; this results in rubbing rather than cutting — increasing friction and further raising temperatures in the cutting zone.

Faced with these challenges — and having decided to offer CNC part-machined components to customers — VSMPO Tirus bought ‘best in class’ and proven machining technologies.

These included highly rigid three-axis machining centres, high-quality tooling and high-performance metal-working fluids.

The company currently has three machining centres at its disposal, including two large-capacity, box guide-way Doosan Mynx 7500/50 machines equipped with powerful high-torque spindles.

All three machining centres use Blaser Swisslube metal-working fluids supplied by Uckfield-based Jemtech (UK) Ltd (, with the fluid of choice being Blaser Vasco 7000 — a vegetable ester oil-based micro-emulsion designed specifically for difficult-to-machine materials.

Ray Flynn, VSMPO Tirus’s production manager, says: “High-performance cutting fluids are a critical element in our machining processes.

Compared with other fluids, Vasco 7000 delivers improved tool life, longer sump life and reduced fluid consumption, which all help us to achieve high-quality parts while reducing our overall manufacturing costs.

Furthermore, by using the coolant at high delivery pressure, we have been able to increase speeds, feeds and depths of cut for shorter cycle times and lead times.”

Fluid management

Having optimised its machining processes, VSMPO Tirus focused on ways of maintaining their reliability. This saw the company attend the launch of Oracle — Jemtech’s new automated fluid-management system — in August 2016 at the MTC in Coventry.

VSMPO Tirus was suitably impressed, and the company initiated discussions with Jemtech regarding the use of Oracle technology at its Redditch facility.

Mr Whitehouse said: “We ultimately decided to invest in a multi-sump Oracle system and to interface it with our two Doosan machining centres.

“The system automatically monitors — in real time — the condition of metal-working fluids in the sumps of these two machines and adjusts the fluids’ volume, concentration and pH levels — as and when required.”

When a machine needs topping up with metal-working fluid, a probe located in the sump sends an alert to the Oracle unit.

This then measures the current fluid concentration levels in the sump and, operating within pre-defined fluid volume and concentration parameters, fills the sump as necessary.

Simultaneously, the Oracle unit also monitors and records pH levels, automatically adding pH-correction fluid if required — plus it captures and records fluid conductivity and temperature data (this can be acted upon immediately or reviewed at a later date).

“Oracle removes the human dimension from metal-working fluid management,” says Mr Whitehouse. “This delivers an obvious cost saving and — just as importantly — ensures that fluid management actually does occur.

“We operate tight production schedules and simply cannot afford machine tool down-time — something that can occur if machine tool sump levels are not regularly maintained.

“A particular strength of the Oracle system is that our processes are monitored in real time by Jemtech engineers. If our processes move out of tolerance, we are notified straight away.

“Our investment in Oracle has helped us to improve process reliability — which is good news for us and for our customers.”

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