The story behind the new Vertex 550-5Xb (the so-called “Blade” Machine) in Mitsui Seiki’s Booth S-8319, began about 18 months ago. Mitsui Seiki was approached by a major aircraft engine company to find out if the machine tool builder would be interested in bidding on a large project for equipment to make turbine blades from bar stock.
Mitsui Seiki responded to that query by designing a new multi-axis machining center specifically for machining turbine blades from forgings, castings, bar stock, or solid billets. The aerospace parts are predominantly titanium, which fit well with Mitsui’s long history in aero engine blisk and impeller machining. Almost coincidently, two major energy companies asked if a similar machine could be developed to produce power generation turbine blades as long as about 12 inches. Those three opportunities solidified the design strategy and pushed the machine development into high gear. Tom Dolan, VP of Mitsui Seiki says, “Our customers gave us design directives for this new machine. Some of the key design criteria points were: the capital cost per part had to be reasonable; therefore the machine tool could not be outrageously expensive. The second parameter was it had to have a small footprint. Floor space is a major concern for almost all customers. Our Vertex platform has a base size of approximately 65 square feet, fitting that requirement nicely, so we chose that machine to serve as the starting point for the Blade machine derivative.”
Dolan says that the turbine blade customers also requested that the machine tool be able to rough and finish titanium or stainless steel workpieces in a very competitive cycle time. Finally, they wanted to improve part quality, accuracy, and surface finish. “The total machining center package had to be smaller, faster, and more accurate than what they were using today—all at an affordable price,” Mr. Dolan says
The Vertex 550-5Xb “Blade” machine features a new rotary axis arrangement, which according to Dolan, provides all the desired machining results without restriction. He says it has an innovative approach to orienting and holding the part. The design makes it easier to load the work manually, and simplifies automatic or robotic part handling.
“Another plus to using the Vertex platform for this application is our proven spindle design for both titanium and stainless. It easily handles the latest cutting strategies and cutting tools,” Dolan adds.