Manufacturing Cell Image
One of six CNC five-axis machines is pictured in the Flexible Manufacturing Cell (FMC) undergoing construction in Building 472. Augmented by a pallet system and fully operational by the end of this year, the FMC will increase manufacturing efficiencies and turn-around times of many aircraft parts and components made of aluminum, steel and titanium. (U.S. Navy photo)

A flexible manufacturing cell (FMC) currently under development is projected to save Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) approximately $2.5 million annually in set-up time within the command’s manufacturing and components programs. The FMC will generate additional savings by creating more efficient rework processes, according to Gabe Draguicevich, FRCSW New Technology Division Director.

Costing almost $18 million and occupying close to 7,000 square feet of floor space, the FMC is comprised of six computer numerically controlled (CNC) five-axis machines and a pallet system which are manufactured by DMG-Mori and Fastems, respectively.

“These six machines with the pallet system replace a total of 12 machines that had less capability, and will replace a number of our Haas machines and both DeVliegs,” Draguicevich said. “With the improvement of manufacturing techniques within the machine tool industry, five-axis machines have improved the accuracy to that of the older, more traditional jig mills. The five-axis CNCs are capable of milling, turning and grinding within one machine. They use Siemens Unigraphics NX CAM Software along with Celos Suite of software that manages the CNC machines. The Fastems pallet system software delivers the parts and fixturing to each machine for processing while tracking schedule and the time remaining for project completion. All of this technology will be managed and monitored within a Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) network called the Industrial Manufacturing System Lab,” he said.

Four of the CNCs are installed and can accommodate components up to 55-inches in diameter. With attached tooling, the CNC spindle height is approximately 30 inches. The other two machines are designed for larger components and along with the pallet system, should be operational by the end of August.

Draguicevich said that the CNCs are applicable to all type/model/series (TMS) of naval assets serviced by the command, and that they can be used on parts and components made of aluminum, steel, and titanium.

“The fixturing and preprogrammed parts support F/A-18 and E-2/C-2 landing gear specifically,” he said. “This is a game changer for FRCSW and we will be virtually eliminating process variance while improving turn-around time. There is nothing like this system installed anywhere in the DOD. There are huge opportunities for new workload such as the E2-D and Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) landing gear. The possibilities are endless and the opportunity to advance as a command is certain.”

In the meantime, 12 artisans including machinists, model makers, maintenance technicians and industrial engineers will be trained to run the FMC, which is slated for full operation by December.