In the 21st century one of the most popularly used materials is aluminium, offering versatile application opportunities for a number of industries ranging from the automotive to the construction industry. The Universal Alloy Corporation, located in Dumbravita, Romania excels in producing hard alloy aluminium parts specialized for the aerospace industry, looking forward for implementing more automation.
The American subsidiary in Romania was the first hard alloy aerospace extrusion production site to be located in an Eastern European EU country in 2010. UAC is a Tier 1 supplier of the aerospace industry, delivering products used mostly in the fuselage and wing section of the aircrafts, such as seat tracks, wing stringers, wing ribs, crossbeams, cleats, hinges and many more. Passengers on the Airbus or Boeing aircrafts will definitely meet the company’s products, but those can also be found on helicopters, jet fighters and smaller planes, just like the Fokker or Pilatus aircrafts.
- 3D planning of the dies is a crucial stage before production starts
The company’s major competitive advantage is the synergies derived from the collocation of the most important manufacturing processes, billet casting, extrusion, machining, surface treatment, and assembly, supplemented by the exceptional know-how accumulated over 100 hundred years of business practice at every production stage. Additionally to the “one stop shop” value proposition which grants customers the opportunity to purchase “ready-to-fly” solutions, thanks to the streamlined processes the company manages to maintain the desired high quality standards while also having the shortest delivery times in the market.
- The basis of quality production is to have high-precision dies
In the Romanian facility most of the production tasks are delivered by sizable machines, like extrusion presses, horizontal heat-treat furnaces, roll straightening and stretcher machines, aging ovens, CNC and electro-discharge machines, and other automated solutions, supervised by human workforce. In two applications which are critical to reach quality results the tasks are delivered by FANUC automation products.
- Universal Alloy Corporation is a leading aerospace supplier producing quality parts
One task is the precision cutting of the dies used in the extrusion presses and the other is loading the high temperature aluminium billets into the press machines. For the former application the company uses the FANUC Robocut to ensure the excellent surface quality and shape of the dies which in some cases needs to endure up to 16,200 tons force and high temperatures in the extrusion presses. In this industry, accuracy is a must when creating a die, because the smallest error unnoticed can cause significant amount of defected products, therefore the granted 0,001mm precision is highly valued in this process. The machine is running 24/7 since the installation 4 years ago in three shifts, producing approximately 9-10 dies a day. Given by the flexibility of the Robocut and the easy programming platform offered by the FANUC CNC control, UAC can manufacture hundreds of different types of dies for its production purposes, granting the flexibility to stay competitive in the market. “We only stop the machines to perform the maintenance tasks signalled by the machine occasionally, for example changing filters or checking the ionization. For other preventative maintenance tasks we ask FANUC for assistance” – suggests Catalin Ghiugan, the Die Design & Manufacturing Manager of UAC.
The Robocut only stops for changing workpieces and scheduled maintenance
The other application illustrates the advancements towards automated production solutions. As the company uses heavy raw materials in the form of 20 to 120 kg aluminium billets, moving, handling and loading of the materials become increasingly difficult. “In the past the extrusion press machines were loaded with billets by using a conveyor, but this method created unwanted scratches on the surface of the billet and gave deadtimes for the press so therefore we replaced the conveyor with a robot to deliver this task. We started with one robot loading one press machine, but after getting good results for the process we applied this method to all of them.” – tells us Andrei Pop, Maintenance Manager. “After stepping up to the first stage of automated processes we anticipate more automated solutions to come and optimize the production between different stages”.
Satisfied customers are really conscious about the continuous improvement of the facility which constantly delivers its promises. As a result it is not surprising that in 2015 Universal Alloy Corporation earned the Supplier of the Year award from Boeing and the Best Performer award from Airbus. As Michael Tojner, founder, and Chip Poth, CEO puts it “We will continue to invest in innovation to maintain and increase the quality and reliability of our pro- ducts and services. We have successfully grown from a US-based extrusion company to a global aerospace components company and our team is proud of the success over the past 20 years and we believe that the next 20 years will be even more successful – the best is yet to come!”.
- Easy programing makes it possible to quickly change between tasks