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Viper Grinding: The Future of Manufacturing

Introducing flexibility into the manufacturing process that helps improve performance and reduces costs is key to success nowadays. Searching out the best technology and combining this with highly skilled teams of design engineers and operators lies at the heart of everything that ELE stands for. Viper grinding technology enables engineers to create more intelligent designs by delivering a grinding tool that can be used on multiple axes, cutting the time spent on changing to different settings, substantially reducing manufacturing time and delivering a high degree of accuracy for more complex machine parts. One area where we differ from our competitors is with the introduction of one of the largest viper grinding machine currently available. Viper stands for Very Impressive Performance Extreme Removal and the acronym suits this technology perfectly. The process has been around for a few years now and replaced older, less effective manufacturing practices. It was originally developed by Rolls Royce Aerospace to help make compressor and turbine blades as well as engine parts to high degrees of accuracy and complexity. It was an immediate success when brought onto the market, a machine which greatly reduced lead times and brought excellent benefits to the manufacturing process as it behaved less like a conventional grinding machine with a wheel that generally ground over the part, the new viper concept was having the wheel moving around the part, more like a multi axis milling machine. These benefits include:

  • The process of grinding is now more efficient and has high levels of consistency allowing for factory processes that deliver high precision finishing across different parts with significantly reduced set up times.
  • There is less thermal damage to components, because of the unique way that the Viper grinder takes smaller cuts at rapid speed with very high coolant pressures, pressures that are so high in fact that they actually impregnate the grinding wheel with coolant during the manufacturing process.
  • Viper grinding can be easily incorporated with other processes such as milling or drilling within the machine due to its integral carousel, offering greater flexibility to the whole manufacturing cycle and finished parts can be completed in a single set up in some cases. All which helps toward cost, set up and lead-time reduction to the customer
  • 5-axis viper grinding machines work with some of the hardest materials in the manufacturing process including nickel based super alloys, making it ideal for sectors such as aerospace where integrity and safety are so important.
  • Speed is also part of the benefits with viper grinding – it delivers up to 5 times normal grinding performance.

The true benefit of viper grinding is that it allows engineers and machinists to produce machined parts and turbines with a much great degree of accuracy. This in turn allows developers to create more exact design criteria, improving tolerances something that is needed for safety critical parts within the aerospace, gas and automotive industries.

How can we help you?

Advanced technology lies at the heart of everything ELE delivers. With a highly skilled workforce we maintain our position at the forefront of technology, advanced by continually investing in our manufacturing processes and making things possible” for our customers. This gives us the ability to produce high quality, complex components for both for large and smaller scaled products to exacting specifications for our clients. Something we do by using latest technology such as the viper grinders to make turbine blades, nozzle guide vanes, seal segments along with other related hot gas path products.  If you want speed, efficiency and reliability to a high standard, then viper grinding from ELE is the perfect solution. At ELE we combine a range of manufacturing technologies to deliver the best outcome for each of our clients.

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ELE invests in automated VIPER grinding cell

This article first appeared in MWP Advanced Manufacturing on 26th June 2012

ELE Advanced Technologies, which specialises in applying non-conventional machining techniques to the production of industrial gas turbine components used in aircraft and power generation, has invested £2m in an automated VIPER grinding cell at its Colne factory.

The equipment is devoted to high-efficiency machining of complex fir-tree root forms and shroud end features on nickel alloy turbine blades, compressor blades and guide vanes.  Customers include Rolls-Royce, Avio, Pratt & Whitney, Siemens and Alstom.

Peter Calderbank, operations director at ELE, said: ‘We have traditionally used conventional creep feed grinders to manufacture industrial gas turbine components. While this 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.’

The automated process at ELE is based on a Makino 5-axis A99e machining centre configured for creep-feed grinding using small, profiled wheels exchanged from the tool magazine. The turnkey cell includes equipment for continuously dressing the grinding wheels, an Erowa palletised workholding system and a Fanuc 6-axis robot for exchanging fixtured components automatically.

More features can be ground in a single set-up on a VIPER machine than on a conventional creep feed grinder, saving refixturing time and promoting higher accuracy and repeatability. Typically, conventional grinding of root and shroud features on a nickel alloy casting requires four separate operations on CNC grinders, plus there is a significant amount of handling time. The same component can be completed on the Makino A99 in two operations and speed of manufacture is increased further by the higher metal-removal rate.

Another useful benefit of VIPER grinding on a machining centre is that other tools can be brought into use from the same magazine that houses the grinding wheels. So, for example, if additional metalcutting operations such as milling and drilling are required, these may be completed in the same cycle without manual intervention.

ELE invests in viper grinding cell

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