The benefits of all-electric tube-bending machines for precision aerospace manufacturing applications are highlighted by Unison at the 2012 Farnborough International Airshow. Unison machines feature a bending system based on precision digitally controlled servomotors. This all-electric architecture provides performance benefits in terms of rapid and repeatable software-based set-up, and lower energy consumption and noise, compared with traditional hydraulically powered machinery.
This technology has helped Unison to win many customers in the aerospace industry, at both aircraft manufacturers and component suppliers and subcontractors. Among the demands that Unison’s machines are meeting today in the sector are: supporting fabrication processes that must manufacture ultra-precise parts in very small batches, typically without generating any scrap; bending exceptionally complex part shapes in a single stage; bending expensive exotic alloy tubing such as titanium with wall thicknesses as fine as 0.9mm; and eliminating jig-based inspection processes.
One of Unison’s most recent users in the aerospace manufacturing sector cites the enhanced ability to bend exotic alloys, and reduced process stages on complex shapes, as key reasons for purchase. The capability of the Unison machine has made it the first choice for almost all of the new tube bending projects that this subcontractor wins, instead of one of the company’s existing hydraulic bending machines.
Another key advantage for the high-precision bending required for aerospace components is Unison’s laser-controlled spring-back correction system. Available as a build-to-order option on any of the Unison’s machines for bending tubes from 50mm diameter upwards, the system automatically compensates for the natural tendency of metal tubes to spring back slightly after being bent, enabling parts manufacturers to implement a right-first-time production process. By eliminating scrap wastage associated with conventional hydraulically powered bending machines, the system helps manufacturers address the spiralling cost of raw materials, and is especially beneficial for companies working with exotic alloys. The correction system can also be used for edge and feature detection to facilitate more stable process control of pre-laser-cut parts.
Quick-change tooling system
Unison is also highlighting a quick-change tooling system that speeds tooling changes on its all-electric tube bending machines. The system covers all of the tooling components on the machine, and includes barcode identification to verify the changeover process. On a 50mm single-stack machine, for example, a fully validated changeover involving six basic tool components to switch from manufacturing one good part to another can be accomplished in less than three minutes. The system is suitable for companies producing high-value-added tubular parts, such as those used in the aerospace industry, enabling expensive early-stage errors to be eliminated from the manufacturing process.
Unison is a leader in all-electric tube bending and is regarded as one of the industry’s innovators. The company’s extensive Breeze range of tube bending machines accommodates all types of tubing materials, from mild steel to exotic alloys. Recent extensions to the range include a rotating head machine that can perform right- and left-hand bending in one continuous cycle, and a machine that features a fully integrated cutter to facilitate automated single-step manufacturing of volume parts.
Alan Pickering, CEO of Unison Ltd, says: “Aerospace is one of the most demanding applications for tube bending, and over time the manufacturing tolerances are tending to become even tighter. Yet it’s still commonplace to see older-style hydraulically actuated benders in use – machinery that is much more suited to large-batch production of run-of-the-mill components. We are able to show that all-electric bending automation has helped aerospace manufacturers to evolve component production processes that are at the vanguard of what is technically possible in terms of precision, shape creation, and cost effectiveness.”
Visitors will also be able to sign up for a tour demonstrating the productivity benefits of servomotor-controlled tube bending. Unison will take attendees to see how at least two UK users employ the high-precision technology – with a choice including applications at aerospace manufacturers.
A video illustrating the time-saving advantages of the new quick-change tooling system can be viewed on Unison’s YouTube channel: youtu.be/MngW-p2hsr8. For further information about Unison's tube-bending machines, visit the website at www.unisonltd.com.