“Right-Sized” Machine for Structural Aerospace Parts

This five-axis machine offers a compact footprint and atypical automated pallet changing system for small, yet challenging aerospace structural components.


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Some complex structural aerospace components are long and/or bulky, requiring processing on a large five-axis machining center. Others, such as the aluminum leading edge segments shown in the photos, require significantly less table real estate. For parts like these, Makino suggests that a more “right-sized” five-axis machine is better suited than one that takes up more floor space and consumes more energy. This notion drove the company to develop the new a61nx-5e five-axis machine, which is based on its 500-mm-table a61 HMC platform. The a61nx-5e offers the precision and versatility to produce smaller, yet equally challenging structural parts while providing a compact footprint and an atypical automated pallet changing system that enables easier part loading than conventional HMCs.

The new a61 model was featured at a recent event at Makino’s U.S. headquarters in Mason, Ohio that highlighted solutions for effective production of aerospace structural components. At the event, the 24,000-rpm machine performed operations such as one-shot wall finishing and high speed floor finishing to complete aluminum leading edge segments, and it achieved material removal rates as high as 300 cubic inches per minute. (A higher-torque, 14,000-rpm spindle is available for hard-metal applications.)

Attendees were also able to see how the machine’s two-position automated pallet changer (APC) simplifies HMC part loading. To begin a new job, the APC arm presents one pallet horizontally to the operator at the machine’s loading station. Once a part is loaded onto this pallet, the APC rotates 180 degrees about what would be the machine’s Y-axis bringing the pallet to a vertical orientation. A linear transfer system moves this pallet into the machine’s workzone, and machining begins after the enclosure doors are closed. That same APC arm rotation brings the other pallet at the opposite end of the arm into a horizontal orientation for the operator to access at the loading station. This video demonstrates a pallet change.