Tech

August 9, 2012

Laser revolutionizes sheet metal cutting at Army Depot

Tags:
by Brigitte Rox
Corpus Christi, Texas

A Corpus Christi Army Depot sheet metal mechanic operates the new laser cutter. The machine revolutionizes sheet metal cutting by making it safer, faster and more accurate than ever.

Nobody works on more Army helicopters than Corpus Christi Army Depot, so when it comes to repair and overhaul, they cut a lot of metal.

Gone are the days of hunching over a pristine sheet of metal meticulously drilling holes and patterns by hand. Now, depot artisans are a step closer to automating the entire sheet metal manufacturing process at Corpus Christi Army Depot, or CCAD.

“This automation will increase quality, reduce manufacturing times and allow one standard time allotted for cutting and deburring patterns and formatting aircraft sheet metal parts manufactured at CCAD,” said Roland de la Fuente, a sheet metal mechanic supervisor.

Their new laser was put into production in 2010, but it went virtually unnoticed next to the bus-sized fluid cell press that normally steals the show.

“It takes having to see the laser in action to really get the ‘wow factor,’” said de la Fuente of the new laser cutter.

Corpus Christi Army Depot’s new laser cutter zaps through metal to create parts for Army helicopters.

The fixture is described by the manufacturer as a high performance linear motor that delivers high-speed cutting for fast, continuous processing of high quality parts.

The laser cutting fixture is used to cut sheet metal patterns that are later formed with the fluid cell flex press or power brakes before they are put on a helicopter.

With a cutting speed of 40 meters per minute, the laser is faster than producing patterns by hand. The laser can cut through several thicknesses of different material, including plate steel, stainless steel and aluminum. Patterns are guaranteed to cut within tolerance, with a repetitive accuracy of .0008 ten thousandths of an inch.

Aircraft sheet metal mechanic Jeremy Garcia has noticed a big difference in the time it takes to produce parts since they started using the new fixture.

“It took us 24 hours to manufacture by hand,” he said. “Now manufacturing takes only eight hours.”

In the past, a sizeable product like a UH-60Black Hawk helicopter bulkhead required the part to be pressed by hand in multiple sections. It all changed with the new fixture. The laser cutter can cut a pattern in as little as five minutes.

“It’s one run and that’s it,” said Garcia.

The advantage of the new laser comes with the computer technology. The laser is controlled using a computer and CADMAN software. The CADMAN is a computer-aided drafting program that specifies the laser’s cutting path.

“The laser is the first member of a fabrication cell I am developing to support the fluid flex cell,” said de la Fuente. Plans for another laser, a turrent punch and two power breaks, all using the same CADMAN software, are in the works.

By utilizing the same CADMAN software, all the machines will be able to community with each other. According to LVD, the CADMAN programming software offers offline integration of the key sheet metalworking processes of laser, punching and bending.

“This will allow the artisans to create pattern-cutting and forming programs at the instant the flat patterns is drafted in CADMAN,” said de la Fuente. “The artisan can then transfer the pattern-cutting program to a punch or laser or even transfer a brake-forming program to the power brakes without having to leave his seat.”

“The laser has performed superbly thus far,” he said.

The laser cutting fixture and the subsequent automation implementations will allow CCAD to schedule accurately and allow the training of a more technologically-proficient workforce to meet unpredicted surges in demand.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
NASA photograph

NASA begins sixth year of airborne Antarctic ice change study

NASA photograph by Michael Studinger NASA’s DC-8 flying laboratory is shown in its parking spot on the ramp at the Aeropuerto Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo in Punta Arenas, Chile, after its transit flight from NASA...
 
 
NASA photograph by Patrick Rogers

Scientific balloon launch highlights NASA exhibit at Balloon Fiesta

NASA photograph by Jay Levine Magdi Said, technology manager for NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program office at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, explains elements of NASA’s use of science balloons.   A live t...
 
 
NASA photograph by John Sonntag

Preparing for Antarctic flights in California desert

NASA photograph by John Sonntag The constellation Ursa Major looms over a GPS-equipped survey vehicle and a ground station to its left at El Mirage Dry Lake. By comparing elevation readings from both GPS sources, researchers ca...
 

 
NASA photograph by Tom Tschida

NASA-pioneered Automatic Ground-Collision Avoidance System operational

NASA photograph by Jim Ross The U.S. Air Force’s F-16D Automatic Collision Avoidance Technology (ACAT) test aircraft banks over NASA’s Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center during a March 2009 flight.  ...
 
 
USF/WHOI/MBARI/NASA image

U.S. initiates prototype system to gauge national marine biodiversity

USF/WHOI/MBARI/NASA image NASA satellite data of the marine environment will be used in prototype marine biodiversity observation networks to be established in four U.S. locations, including the Florida Keys, pictured here. The...
 
 
NASA photograph by David C. Bowman

NASA helicopter test a smashing success

NASA photograph by David C. Bowman Technicians at NASA Langley pulled a helicopter 30 feet into the air before dropping it to test crashworthy systems.   The successful crash test of a former Marine helicopter could help l...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>