AS TECHNOLOGY GROWS, THEY GROW
Aerospace Manufacturing Group (AMG) operates their 60,000 sq.ft. state of the art manufacturing facility in Huntington Beach, California. They are supported by the latest technology in hardware, software and quality control, giving them the capabilities to manufacture the most complex parts in the aerospace industry. Their investment in technology makes them a trusted source world wide, and their products can be found on commercial and military aircraft for companies like Boeing, and Lockheed Martin. In business since 1941, this Southern California based giant is the longest running continuous machined parts supplier for Northrop Grumman. Their equipment ranges from small 3 axis mills and support equipment to full 3 spindle 5 axis high speed gantries capable of machining parts up to 70’ long and 2000” a minute. As technology grows, they grow. Eighty percent of their work is 2 ops on their 5 axis machines. Side one, side two then off to the assembly department where it will be assembled and shipped to the production line ready for immediate use.
“We do mostly machining and assembly for aerospace components and subassemblies,” explains John Gates, director of engineering at AMG. “A large part of our business is defense. Running on our Cincinnati 3 spindle 5 axis Gantry machine right now are structural ribs for the fuselage on the Boeing C-17 Globemaster heavy transport.” Components like that are pretty standard fare at AMG. They do a lot of work for the F/A 18 Hornet and lately they have been heavy in “spares” work for programs like that. More and more planes are undergoing a refit for training purposes and manufacturers must rely on proven companies with years of experience to take on such projects. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and AMG even longer,” explains John. “Some of these refit parts require almost tribal knowledge how to to produce them. Most are just a book of equations for us to sort out.”
John has been in the manufacturing game for 40 years and is the current director of engineering at AMG. John originally served an apprenticeship as a die sinker, but his experience extends into straightening, heat treating, tool making, machine tool setup, and tool design. He got into manual programing and found what he describes is having “a fatal knack for machining.” He took a ten year hiatus from manufacturing to head up research and development for a sports medicine outfit who manufactured carbon fiber and titanium braces. Eventually, that fatal knack drew him back to machining and has spent nearly 20 years working at AMG.
AMG recently added a Scharmann ECOSPEED F to their already impressive lineup of manufacturing capabilities. The ECOSPEED F specializes in high-speed machining of medium sized aluminum structural components. It has a horizontal spindle, vertical pallets and a high speed Sprint Z3 parallel kinematic machining head and 150 tools. “Its only been in and running for a couple weeks now,” tells John. “We are still trying to feed programs to it.” AMG purchased the ECOSPEED F for a specific job with a family of parts. Although not at liberty to say what that job is, parts range in size from 68”x52” to 60”x200”. The new machine is so impressive that AMG was one of only four world wide stops on the Starrag Group Aluminum Aerostructure Machining Roadshow, where they showcased it to other manufacturers. The new machine chows through metal like it was nothing, and feeds up to 2000” a minute. If there was any problem in the code with a tool path or possible impact the operator would never be able to stop it. John pulls out a calculator and a few seconds later explains how he can take a 10” cube of aluminum and reduce it to nothing but chips in 2 minutes with the new ECOSPEED.
AMG and John are devoted users of Vericut software, they use it on everything and it was instrumental in getting the new ECOSPEED F up and running as quickly as possible. “The new machine and controls are quite a bit more sophisticated,” explains John. “That’s really saying something considering the technology we have on our floor. I needed to write the post for the ECOSPEED while it was being built, and before it was installed in the shop. We couldn’t afford to wait until it was in-house before getting to work, so we ordered machine simulation software from Vericut. Like our new machine the machine simulation is more sophisticated than the standard Vericut that is widely used in shops everywhere” Through the use of the Vericut simulation software John was able to debug 95% of his post before even seeing the machine in person. He estimates that they were up and running at least a month ahead of where they would have been without it.
“This is what I think of Vericut. No program ever goes to any machine without completely going through Vericut. Period. If you dot an i and reprocess, it goes back through Vericut. The code I send through Vericut is the exact code that goes out to the machine.” That being said the new machine simulation adds a lot of features over the standard Vericut software. It shows what the actual machine is doing during the op, tool changes, measuring, everything. If the machine does it then the simulation does it. “You can zoom, rotate, pause, whatever I want to do,” demonstrates John. “To put it in perspective, if the average shop has a piece of 12”x12”x4” aluminum and you screw it up, that sucks, but you can go buy another one and move on. We are working on a piece of aluminum that is 260” long, 60” wide and 4.5” thick. It costs thousands and thousands of dollars, not to mention the months that it will take to get another piece like it. We can’t afford to make mistakes like that, we can’t afford not to use Vericut.”
John has been a programmer for a lot of years and has worked with a lot of other programmers. Everyone has their own unique way they program, it’s an art form, but he has noticed that they all share one common thing. “We all program so we can go home each night and go to sleep. One program I had typed 59,000 lines of code. They were going to put a $15,000 chunk of aluminum on the machine and someone was going to say go. If I made one mistake that piece of metal was junk. So how do you deal with that stress? Vericut lets the programmer go home and sleep. Vericut doesn’t just make sense, it makes dollars.”
Aerospace Manufacturing Group’s philosophy is “to be better than yesterday, but not as good as tomorrow.” If today is any indication of tomorrow, then they, and all their customers have a bright future ahead.