Chris Putman explains that if you don’t get the small details right, the big picture will never be perfect.
Most of us enjoy flying away once in a while, for a few well-earned weeks in the sun, putting the worries and cares of our engineering world behind us. We can relax on the outward flight knowing that every component of the plane is manufactured and maintained to the strictest tolerances and maintained to the highest standards.
At 30,000ft and 600mph, we know we don’t have to worry about cheap parts, quick fixes, or slapdash record-keeping. This is because the aerospace industry represents the pinnacle of engineering in terms of design, innovation and manufacturing quality.
In today’s world, many component parts need to be manufactured with supreme accuracy. The aerospace industry, Formula 1 and precision engineering are obvious fields that require tolerances equivalent to a hair's breadth over many metres. But cars, consumer goods, electronic devices, medical equipment and many other products are now made to tolerances almost as demanding. This requires workholding, fixturing and location parts that conform to high tolerances.
Production of these parts must be accurate and repeatable – and often produced at bewildering speeds. In addition to these technical requirements, there are frequently commercial pressures for low cost, reduced lead times, changed orders and design variants. Then there may be tightening quality requirements for say, improving traceability or reducing defects.
Engineers at WDS Component Parts have perfected a procedure for guaranteeing that their clients can produce accurate parts, time and time again. In the first stage they work with customers through the specification stages to produce technical drawings of fixtures etc. These are cast in iron, then machined and finished to an accuracy of 5µm to the metre using ISO9001 registered tooling. Prior to delivery, the parts are tested in-house using properly calibrated measuring equipment and supplied with a certificate of conformity.
Cast iron has some key advantages: it minimises size distortion caused by fluctuating temperatures and is a deadening material, which cuts vibration during machining. Workholding parts – such as cubes, end-plates and risers – are not only high value; they are also extremely cumbersome to manoeuvre and require a fair amount of storage space.
Where production cells are responsible for different part runs, exchanging the workholding tools can often result in significant downtime during product run change-overs. WDS engineers are able to work with customers to create matrix designs that can hold many different parts. This improves the work flow in most environments and keeps productivity high, as they typically only need to be turned through 90˚ or 180˚ to change from one task to the next.
Chris Putman is with WDS Component Parts Limited, Leeds, UK.