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ELE Advanced Technologies, which specialises in the use of non-conventional machining techniques to produce gas-turbine components, has invested in a Viper grinding cell for its Colne factory. This is being used to machine complex fir-tree root forms and shroud-end features on nickel-alloy turbine blades, compressor blades and guide vanes.

Operations director Peter Calderbank says: “We have traditionally used conventional creep-feed grinders to manufacture gas-turbine components. While that method is efficient for large-volume production, the market is increasingly demanding smaller batches, delivered just-in-time. This means that we need to introduce more-flexible rapid-changeover technology to bring down manufacturing costs for shorter runs — hence our investment in Viper (very impressive performance, extreme removal) grinding. Set-ups are quicker — and completed off-line — lead times are shorter, the amount of work-in-progress is less, and tooling costs are lower, leading to much more-economical machining of high-accuracy features in exotic alloys.”

ELE’s Viper grinding cell is based on a Makino five-axis A99e machining centre, with equipment for continuously dressing the grinding wheels, a palletised work-holding system and a Fanuc six-axis robot for exchanging fixtured components automatically.

This article first appeared in Machinery Mart on 2nd June 2012