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HMC machining a large part

Starrag’s Ecospeed F2060 has traverse rates of 50 meters per minute in each axis. These speeds have helped the company to achieve a 30% reduction in machining times across all parts, compared with previous methods.

Orizon Aerostructures is building something unique. The company has six locations and 763 employees dedicated to aerospace manufacturing and complex sub-assemblies. Its almost 780,000 square feet of production area at sites in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma includes four machining locations, which among them use 100 CNC machines (50 of which are five axis or more). The company’s newest plant in Grove, Oklahoma, is a purpose-built factory that is part of an investment of more than $50 million, which also includes 10 Ecospeed F2060 machines from Starrag. Nine of these machines comprise a flexible manufacturing system, which the company is using to set new standards in machining aerostructures.

The FMS, which is said to be the largest integrated system of its type in the western hemisphere, is enabling Orizon to achieve:

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  • At least a 30% reduction in machining times across all the parts, compared with former methods
  • An improvement in surface finish with less deburring and polishing requirements
  • A high revenue to capital expenditure ratio and two to three times the revenue per person over traditional methods of machining

“That’s no surprise when it is realized that the Ecospeed is able to convert a 550-kg aluminum billet into a 24-kg complex structural part in less than four hours when the machine is running at a maximum cutting volume of up to 10,000 cm³/min,” says Starrag North America’s Managing Director Udo Herbes.

The nine high-speed Ecospeeds are fed by an automated rail-guided, 18-station pallet system and are completed by an integrated washing/drying cell. The FMS is manned by only five people on each of the two daily shifts for 24/7 operation. The parts it produces are for a range of aerostructures, primarily wing spars, skins and bulkheads for original equipment manufacturers in aerospace and defense.

Increasing Manufacturing Efficiency

Orizon’s forward-thinking machining philosophy is certainly paying dividends, and the company’s attitude toward its investment is clear. “In October 2016, we dreamed of building something unique and building it in just 12 months—a new factory to house a new FMS that would produce machining efficiencies to surpass anything we’ve ever encountered,” CEO Charlie Newell says. “Working from the start with Starrag, together we have created an unbelievably formidable and highly successful partnership for world-class machining of aerostructure parts. It was clear, even before the first machine sale, that Starrag was willing to listen and to share and support our vision.”

Mr. Newell adds that Starrag offered excellent levels of knowledge transfer.

Flexible manufacturing system with nine Ecospeed five-axis machines from Starrag


Orizon has installed 10 Starrag five-axis Ecospeed F2060s, nine of them within a flexible manufacturing system (FMS), which is helping the company machine aerospace structures more efficiently.

Starrag assisted Orizon in developing proper processes around its business systems, including standardizing tooling and machining operations across all parts and using online diagnostic tools that enable both Orizon and Starrag Technology in Mönchengladbach, Germany, to “interrogate” the system or its individual machines via smart phones, iPads or desktop computers at any time.

Online diagnostics are only one aspect (and benefit) of Starrag’s Integrated Production System (IPS), a modular digital platform that aligns with Starrag’s philosophy of “engineering precisely what you value.” It offers users a suite of functionality to meet individual tasks, including:

  • Cloud-based solutions to help users analyze and optimize processes more specifically and further increase productivity
  • Machine Protection System, which monitors production in real time and protects the machine against incorrect operation/collisions
  • Process Quality Control with a chatter monitor that warns of dangerous vibrations while machining
  • An integrated Machine Qualification System that informs users about machine condition and, where necessary, displays the corresponding maintenance instructions

President Henry Newell says Orizon chose the Ecospeed F2060s with Sprint Z3 parallel kinematic machining heads and angular milling heads because they produced everything Starrag said they would in terms of metal removal (as much as 650,000 cubic inches of chips each hour by each machine), reliable uptime (97%) and excellent surface finishes (courtesy of its jerk speeds).

“It was also clear that Starrag was a company we could truly trust and one with common values in attaining world-class machining results,” he says. “Even one chip not removed timely in one pocket could cause a $20,000 part to be scrapped, and nobody can afford that!”

Establishing a Flexible Machining System

Setting up the FMS wasn’t as simple as placing an order for the initial machine tools. Orizon first installed a stand-alone Ecospeed with Z3 head to thoroughly test the machine’s effectiveness and efficiency on production parts. This enabled the company to ensure the machine could “provide customers with faster, better and more affordable production,” says Josh Fink, vice president of machining.

Orizon’s original Ecospeed F2060 now sits alone in its own area. The rest of the 86,000 square-foot factory floor hosts the FMS, which began as a six-machine system. The first F2060 for the FMS was installed in January 2017, followed two months later by the pallet system. The system was in production by October 2017. A year later, three additional Ecospeeds were added. “And importantly these latter three machines did not add any labor overhead to the system; just revenue,” Mr. Fink notes.

Starrag’s Ecospeed F2060 has travels in X, Y and Z of 6,300 mm by 2,500 mm by 670 mm (with the spindle in horizontal position) and traverse rates of 50 meters per minute in each axis. In addition, the ±45-degree a/b axis is complemented by a 120-kW spindle that offers a torque of 83 Nm and can run non-stop at 30,000 RPM in S1 mode. The specification is additionally enhanced on a machine with high dynamics in acceleration of as much as 1 G force in all five axes and jerk ranging to 200 m/s³.

On the load/unload station, users manually load the parts, which are clamped with a mixture of vacuum and mechanical clamps while the pallet is in the horizontal position. Each pallet can hold as many as 12 different parts, though workpiece sizes (especially heights) are ideally standardized by pallet. The pallets, which measure 2 meters by 6 meters, can accommodate loads as large as 5,000 kgs. Once loaded, the pallet is tilted 90 degrees and moved into the 270-feet long FMS, with the sophisticated cell controller deciding which machine will process which pallet.


Parallel kinematic machining head with a large metal part

Each of Orizon’s Ecospeeds features a Sprint Z3 parallel kinematic machining head, which boosts the machine’s ability for highly dynamic, simultaneous five-axis/five-sided milling and drilling.

Each of Orizon’s Ecospeeds has common tooling in its 129-station toolchangers, so any of the machines in the FMS can machine any part in any order. Orizon worked closely with Starrag to standardize the tooling and machining speeds and feeds, as well as programming routines, to enable this flexibility.

Each of Orizon’s Ecospeeds features a Sprint Z3 parallel kinematic machining head, which boosts the machine’s ability for highly dynamic, simultaneous five-axis/five-sided milling and drilling. The head uses three parallel linear axes drives that are mounted radially and equally spaced in the headstock. The spindle platform is connected to each drive via rigid levers with pivots at one end and a ball joint at the other.

When all three axes move simultaneously, the spindle moves in a straight line in Z. This synchronized motion of the three Z-axes allows the spindle to follow any path within a spherical cone of ±45 degrees at a maximum of 80 degrees per second. If the three axes move differentially, the spindle platform will be tilted in the A/B kinematic.

Each machine has an integral C-axis to allow the use of automatic interchangeable angular milling heads, which operate at every spatial angle between -135 degrees and +135 degrees. These heads effectively make each machine a six-axis unit for accessing and machining difficult-to-reach areas.

The machines use standard HSK A63/80 taper tooling, as well as “mono” tools as large as 50-mm diameter. All tools feature RFID chips for effective tool management.

After machining, the pallet moves to the wash/dry station where high-pressure wash nozzles direct angled jets to reach every corner of a part before an air blast is used for drying. By using minimum quantity lubrication (MQL), workpieces enter the wash station with a relatively low amount of swarf and cutting fluid, speeding the washing process. The pallet then returns to the horizontal where each part is removed from the system for deburring and 100% inspection on a coordinate measuring machine.

One measure of the collaboration between Orizon and Starrag is the fact that the latest three Ecospeeds installed feature design tweaks to meet Orizon’s needs. These include modifications to the pedestrian door, improved lighting for in-machine cameras and an improved access door for maintenance routines.

Orizon operators undertake basic maintenance routines which complement

Flexible manufacturing system with nine Ecospeed five-axis machines from Starrag

Starrag assisted Orizon in developing proper processes around its business systems, including standardizing tooling and machining operations across all parts, and using online diagnostic tools to “interrogate” the system or its individual machines.

Starrag’s Service Plus preventative maintenance plan, where an annual fee covers every eventuality and guarantees service response times, inspection and repair.

Having achieved such gains in machining efficiency, Orizon is not resting on its laurels. “System performance is continually scrutinized, with conference calls every week between us and Starrag to discuss machine availability levels (currently 97%) and spindle utilization (87% targeted),” Mr. Fink says. “Yes, it’s all very well having such targets, but the key is being able to reach them. It’s simply a case of continual improvement.”

Starrag | 859-534-5201 |

Orizon Aerostructures | 816-788-7800 |