When the world’s longest and heaviest plane – the Antonov An-225 “Mriya” – made its first flight in 1988, it was a historic moment for Ukrainian company Motor Sich, the manufacturer of the six Progress D-18T engines that propelled this mammoth aircraft skywards. But in the aviation industry, nobody can afford to stand still; the development of new technologies is the key to long-term success.
Longevity is something that Motor Sich knows more than a little about, with its history extending back over a hundred years. Founded in 1907, this innovative business has become one of the world’s largest suppliers of engines for aeroplanes and helicopters, as well as industrial gas turbine installations, creating many revolutionary systems and unique designs in its long history.
Research Supported By Quality
Engineering feats like the “Mriya” do not come without deep understanding of the research and development process, including the utilisation of the latest technology and equipment to reinforce the knowledge and creativity of the development teams. The Motor Sich corporation is comprised of several large plants, with the main manufacturing facilities and headquarters of the company located in Zaporozhye, Ukraine. It employs more than 25 000 employees. The main site is the manufacturing hub, producing the engine units, industrial gas turbine installations and a variety of other products. The central measurement laboratory, where metrology engineers inspect prototype parts like turbine blades, is also located here. On the second site there is a precision casting foundry and an experimental laboratory, where installations are tested before delivery to customers.
Due to the product specification, quality control is the one of the integral aspects of the production process. That is why the group management, led by company president Mr. V. Boguslaev, is always keeping an eye on the latest world trends and technologies in the field of industrial metrology. Every new item is checked for compliance with construction documentation and inspected against a CAD model. The goal is to improve their evolution from experimental to production parts and make certain that the end products perform as intended. Ultimately, these processes determine the functional quality and service life of the aeroplane and helicopter engines. Working to typical tolerances of between 12 µm and 15 µm and sometimes with fragile materials used in blade manufacturing, having the best technology available to measure the prototypes is vital. So in 2010, when Motor Sich began to plan a new generation of aeroplane and helicopter engines, the team cast a critical eye over their own facilities in Zaporozhye. And this is where Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence joins the story.
The Modernisation Dilemma
By 2010, Motor Sich already had access to a range of metrology equipment, ranging from a relatively new Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence DEA Global C Performance coordinate measuring machine (CMM) installed in 2008 to a Mauser KMZ-G which had been serving the factory since 1986. The Mauser CMM was unique at the time of its production in the 1980s, but compared to modern equipment it had a number of technical limitations: a first-generation measurement head, an old controller, antiquated software and a number of other factors that made the operators’ jobs incredibly complicated. Other issues included the time spent on inspections, which significantly limited the productivity of the machine, as well as some loss of accuracy because of the machine’s age, which made it impossible to use for parts which required greater precision. But the installation of a new modern machine of the same size would have meant dismantling the old one and preparing a new foundation and communications, and consequently – a complete and lengthy stop in the central laboratory of the plant. This represented a serious dilemma for Motor Sich’s Chief Metrological Engineer and Deputy General Manager, Vladimir Borisovich Yakovlev:
“We were running our metrology machines at the limits of their capabilities. As a business we had reached the stage where updating our own equipment was essential to support our new product development goals. In the early phases of the project, the critical decision was whether to purchase new machines or upgrade the existing ones. Of course cost was a factor, but the thought of a central laboratory stopping work for a month or more made this choice very difficult. Really we were looking for a solution that gave us the best of both options.”
After conducting a site visit to make a complete assessment of the Mauser machine, a team of Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence engineers proposed a retrofit solution that would enable Motor Sich to achieve the required inspection speed and accuracy of results without significant interruptions to the work of the laboratory. “The specialists at Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence recommended a series of sequential upgrades to our existing machines, then later on, the purchase of any new equipment we still needed,” continues Yakovlev. “This was an important factor in the decision to work with Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence.
Breathing New Life into old Equipment
While some of the more modern machines simply required servicing, controller replacements and software upgrades to bring them up to speed, the Mauser was a trickier proposition. With dimensions of 2500 mm x 2000 mm x 1200 mm, it was by far the biggest CMM at Motor Sich. However, it was also the oldest equipment, dating back to the design phases of the “Mriya” engines. Maintenance was increasingly difficult, with some major systems and key parts now obsolete. But rather than consign it to the history books, Hexagon Metrology was able to give this wellworn machine a new lease of life and reuse 80% of the hardware from its original installation.
To maximise the operational benefits and minimise disruption to Motor Sich’s day-to-day work, the refurbishment of the Mauser machine focused on the areas where newer technology would really add value.
Utilising over twenty years of technological developments, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence technicians installed a new controller, improved measuring equipment including the probe head, styli and adaptors to give scanning capabilities, replaced the pneumatic and electrical communication systems and upgraded the software to the latest version of PCDMIS CAD++. The team also worked with colleagues from Motor Sich to develop new fixturing methods to ensure good throughput and efficiency. “I have to thank all the project participants – from both Motor Sich and Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence – whose engineering expertise and cooperation made it possible to complete this challenging scheme within three weeks,” adds Yakovlev.
The First of Many Projects
Although the work took just three weeks in total, there is no doubt that Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence made a lasting impression on the employees of Motor Sich. Completed in November 2010, the retrofit project was just the beginning of a successful relationship between the two companies. As of 2013, there are two ROMER Absolute Arm portable CMMs in use at the much-expanded workshop in Zaporozhye, alongside no less than ten Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence DEA Global Silver Performance machines in four different sizes. All run on PC-DMIS, ensuring data compatibility with the company’s CAD software. One of the DEA machines also has QUINDOS software installed as an option, giving Motor Sich the flexibility to switch to a different system for specific applications such as gear checking. And the old Mauser machine also remains – the factory’s elder statesman kept alive by the new technology within it.