Rapid response helps Leonardo Helicopters hit deadline

When the decision to bring a large rotor head part for the Lynx family of helicopters back in-house from an overseas supplier was taken by Leonardo Helicopters, the engineering team was faced with a large-scale challenge, namely to find a machine not only capable of machining the 1.5m by 1.5m forgings, but one that could be delivered in a relatively short timescale. The solution was the purchase of a Comev Titano 80 heavy-duty CNC lathe through RK International Machine Tools.

Leonardo Helicopters’ transmission and mechanical parts production engineering team looked at a number of potential suppliers that could meet the machine specification that was required to machine such a large, and awkwardly shaped component, but crucial to its own delivery schedules was the need to have the machine, fully operational, on-site in Yeovil by a specific date.

In the end the Comev Titano 80 was selected, but only after Leonardo Helicopters’, transmission and mechanical parts production engineering site facilities project engineer, Peter O’Shea, had eased any potential concerns surrounding delivery, insisting on photographic evidence that the large castings for the machine bed existed.

“Delivery was crucial and we took every opportunity to verify that Comev and RK International could and would deliver on their promise of a 20-week delivery schedule,” states O’Shea. “In the end the pre-planning on everybody’s part paid off as the machine arrived in Yeovil on the exact date it was promised.”

The machine was ordered as a turnkey package with component trials being carried out in Italy prior to the machine being dismantled and shipped to England. The next challenge was getting it into position in the relatively tight space allocated for it in the machine shop at Leonardo Helicopters.

“Working closely with RK International, whose project management skills were exceptional, we devised a plan to enable this very large machine to be manoeuvred in the tight confines of the machine shop and, as a result, the delivery was relatively straightforward onto the 1m deep foundations that we had put in place.”

The scale of the machine is highlighted by the basic specifications of an 870mm centre height giving a 1,600mm swing over the bed, along with a 4m distance between centres. Other features of the machine are its 160mm diameter spindle bore, 12-position Baruffaldi 150VDI turret, three geared speed ranges of between 0–800rpm, driven by a 28/42kW spindle motor. The whole machine weighs in at 18,000kg. The large rotor head component that it was bought for had to be held in a special fixture that meant the actual machining, supported by a SMW Autoblok hydraulic steady rest, took place almost 2m away from the spindle nose.

Leonardo Helicopters’ purchase terms were quite strict and following the five day prove out in Italy the same tests had to be replicated to their satisfaction once the machine was installed in Yeovil.

“While delivery was crucial, the ability of the machine to deliver on quality and consistency of parts was vital,” says David Brown, Leonardo Helicopters’ Transmission and Mechanical Parts production engineering manager. “The raw forgings are worth many thousands of Pounds, and we are adding to that value considerably during the manufacturing process. Therefore, we had to be 100% certain that the machine was capable of achieving what Comev and RK International had claimed it could do. The prove out in Italy working alongside RK International and Comev were we worked around certain specifics put our minds at rest, but we needed that final verification before signing off on what is a major purchase once the machine had arrived.

“As in Italy everything went according to plan and we are machining the rotor heads successfully. In fact, so successfully that we are finding we have free capacity on the Comev that we are able to use by transferring parts from older, slower machines.”

The machine is probably the largest new machine tool installed by RK International, but it benefitted from its vast experience of project managing turnkey solutions and machine installation and commissioning gained over many years.

“The Comev Titano 80 was created for this application by extending the swing capacity of the standard Titano 70 machine,” says Simon Rood, sales manager, RK International Machine Tools. “This ability to work around the customer’s requirement was instrumental in winning the business and the partnership that developed between Leonardo Helicopters, Comev and RK International during the process resulted in every deadline, quality criteria and H&S requirements being met on schedule. The Comev large capacity lathes sit alongside our existing, own brand, Europa large lathes, creating a formidable portfolio of heavy-duty turning machines.”

(L-R) David Brown, Gary Hunt, Peter O’Shea from Leonardo Helicopters with Simon Rood of RK International Machine Tools



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