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8th January 2019, Alnwick

Quickstep Technologies halves part set up time

The combination of MSP’s NC-Checker and NC-PerfectPart software is delivering significant savings for the manufacturing processes at Quickstep Technologies, the largest independent aerospace grade advanced composites manufacturer in Australia.

MSP is a leading expert in developing and implementing precision metrology software, helping companies within various sectors, such as the aerospace, Formula 1, and defence industries, produce 100% accurate parts.

Quickstep Technologies, Australia. © MSP/ Quickstep Technologies

Located in Bankstown New South Wales, Quickstep Technologies has a global reach that sees it working for customers in the aerospace, defence and other advanced manufacturing sectors. In supporting these customers, it provides complex composite part manufacture and assemblies for ‘build to print’ applications, making use of conventional autoclave-based manufacturing and leading proprietary out-of-autoclave production techniques including its patented Qure process.

In addition, Quickstep Technologies also provides design, development and manufacture of complex engineered products. Quickstep Technologies provides advanced composite solutions to customers including Northrop Grumman, for who it is an approved supplier for the international F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme.

Consistency, qualification and traceability

The JSF programme requires the supply of high-precision composite manufacturing and involves a high degree of precision machining, specifically five-axis work for parts, and therefore consistency, qualification, documentation and traceability were pre-requisites for this contract. At its state-of-the-art aerospace manufacturing facility at Bankstown airport, Quickstep Technologies introduced NC-Checker and NC-PerfectPart to monitor the accuracy and capability of their five-axis machining. Doing so also enabled Quickstep Technologies to qualify its Breton five-axis machining centres and give the customers the confidence that Quickstep’s manufacturing processes meet their exacting standards.

MSP representative demonstrating NC-Checker at Quickstep Technologies. © MSP/ Quickstep Technologies

NC-Checker first carries out a calibration check on the probe. Once this is complete, it then proceeds to carry out five-axis checks of the machine tool to check the machine’s accuracy. This produces a report, which shows the manufacturer if their machine is capable of machining parts to tolerance. The software provides detailed results in a comprehensive report and can show precisely where the machine may be under-performing.

The parts being produced by Quickstep Technologies are complex free form shapes, so work-holding is a major issue when using traditional manufacturing methods. Each part has a dedicated composite vacuum fixture with three or four fixed location Tooling Spheres. The centre point of the spheres is known relative to the part geometry and this information is then used to locate the fixture or part in a suitable work offset coordinate system for machining. Prior to using NC-PerfectPart, these datums were generated using standard cycles within the Siemens control. While this achieved results, it was limited in that it was time consuming and open to human error. NC-PerfectPart fully automates this process and eliminates any human error.

Reduction of costs

“The initial results of using NC-PerfectPart and NC-Checker were a surprise; in the sense that we could now fully automate our datum setting and verification process and reduce this setup time by 50% per part (when compared to the previous method), as well as clearly understand the various geometry features and the accuracies inter-relation to each other,” said Kris Dokka, Specialist Manager, Quickstep Technologies.

Quickstep Technologies' facility in Australia. © MSP/ Quickstep Technologies

“Customising a programme within NC-PerfectPart, also resulted in a considerable reduction of rework on surface profile inaccuracies. Last year we achieved a 75% reduction in this rework and this year are aiming for Gold. [With the ease of use of the software] we now have a scheduled fortnightly benchmark execution routine. In addition to this regular scheduled check, we also execute a complete benchmark routine if there is an untoward incident on any of the machines, to determine if any changes occurred in the machine geometric accuracies. This is the most efficient method of gaining confidence back in the machine accuracy status before we commit to machining a part.”

Quickstep Technologies will include the full range of MSP software, as well as the soon to be released MSP plug in NC-Inspect, which simplifies the generation of probing programmes from CAD systems, as standard on all future five-axis machines.

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