For more than 30 years, Okuma has been the machine tool builder of choice for manufacturers in the aerospace machining industry, including Tier 1, 2 and 3 suppliers and job shops. Why are Okuma CNC machines so uniquely suited for this industry’s demanding requirements? It’s a combination of several elements – the unique way we build our machines, the flexibility of our CNC controls, and the distributor expertise “at your doorstep” –that sets us apart.
With today’s high demand for aerospace parts such as landing gear and engine components, Okuma users win and retain customers by delivering high-precision results with competitive pricing. Aerospace manufacturers can choose from more than 10 Okuma CNC machine models that are specifically crafted for their needs, from the MA-500HII horizontal machining center to the huge MULTUS B750 horizontal lathe, and even a series of robust grinders.
Cost Reduction: The Aerospace Mandate
To win aerospace manufacturing bids, you have to be more than competitive – you need to have the lowest bid. The build quality of Okuma CNC machines maximizes productivity, minimizes downtime and provides a platform that lasts for decades. Highly productive machines that last a long time yield the lowest cost-per-part.
When thinking about reducing costs, it’s essential to consider lifetime cost of ownership rather than just the initial cost. By investing in a quality machine, users benefit from reduced repair frequency/cost and higher spindle utilization over the life of the machine. Learn more about the cost benefits of investing in quality machines in our blog post “Quality vs. Price? The Real Deal. ”
Cost reduction is also achieved by implementing automation to contain labor costs. Okuma’s PALLETACE flexible manufacturing system enhances the productivity of an Okuma horizontal machining center by allowing for unattended runs, lights-out aerospace machining, and reduced non-cutting time due to setups and changeovers. Okuma provides a quick interactive calculator that can be used to estimate the savings you can achieve by implementing a PALLETACE system. Our case study featuring aerospace manufacturer Klune Industries tells the story of how an Okuma automation cell enabled this company to deliver quality parts at a competitive price to their customers.
Part Accountability and Traceability
Maintaining detailed accountability and traceability for each part produced is of utmost importance in manufacturing for aerospace. Okuma’s THINC control provides simple and powerful systems to achieve this. In a typical THINC traceability process, a folder of events is created for each part, and each part is bar-coded to the cell where it is being machined. Then, at each stage of the machining process, data is collected and archived to its corresponding folder. Detailed data for probing, tooling, machining, and inspections are recorded and can be easily retrieved at any time, allowing aerospace parts manufacturers to deliver accountability and traceability with confidence.
Special Challenges Require a Special Machine
Okuma’s CNC machine quality is renowned, and ideally suited for the high demands of aerospace machining. Following are a few highlights:
- We’re the industry’s only single-source provider, with the machine, drive, motors, encoders, spindle and control all manufactured by Okuma, providing a synergistic system that delivers greater reliability and performance.
- Every Okuma is hand scraped on each mating surface to set the foundation for consistent accuracy and long-term stability. Hand scraping introduces carefully placed high and low spots on the mating surfaces of the CNC machine. Tight tolerances can only be achieved by adding high and low spots that hold oil and allow for gliding, rather than sticking.
- Thermo-Friendly Concept (one of Okuma’s Intelligent Technologies) combines CNC control technology with stable machine design to both minimize the amount of heat generated and deal with heat that cannot be eliminated. This thermal stability enhances aerospace machining accuracy while decreasing costs and maximizing profitability.
- Turn-Cut is a powerful option available on Okuma horizontal machining centers that allows the machine to create bores and diameters that include circular and/or angular features. This enables aerospace manufacturers to turn features on large, unbalanced parts on the same platform where standard CNC machining functions are performed. Turn-Cut eliminates the need to purchase special-purpose machines, tooling, fixtures or add-on components.
- Cycle times for aerospace parts are typically long, and interruptions can be problematic. Okuma’s Mid-Auto Restart and Program Restart features allow users to easily interrupt a long program, and resume it seamlessly.
- Exotic materials such as titanium and Inconel are often used in aerospace manufacturing, and require special considerations in the CNC machining process. Okuma works closely with our tooling partners to determine the best methods for utilizing both the machine and tooling to cut these metals.
- Okuma maintains Gold Membership status with the National Composite Center (NCC) and is the only machine tool builder that participates in this distinguished group. We work closely with the NCC team to develop new technologies for machining composites.
- Okuma’s THINC®-OSP CNC controls provide a Windows®-based, open architecture platform that makes it possible to easily install PC applications that allow for myriad conveniences right at the CNC machine location. This allows for handy access to tooling lists/setup spreadsheets, process documents, and how-to videos that assist operators in setup and operation. And, because we have the industry’s only fully open platform, you can create any productivity-enhancing apps you desire. The new THINC-OSP-300 control provides a feature that combines critical operator information into one “EASY OPERATION” run screen. Our case study featuring aerospace manufacturer Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind demonstrates the extreme revenue growth that is possible by utilizing the power of the THINC CNC control.
- Partners in THINC is a collaboration network of more than 40 industry-leading companies that come together to solve problems and explore new productivity ideas for real-world manufacturers. With the open architecture, PC-based THINC-OSP control as its nucleus, Partners in THINC brings specialized equipment, expertise and a commitment to provide the best possible integrated solutions to the aerospace manufacturer.
Local Distribution Provides Industry Expertise and Support
Okuma sells to manufacturers exclusively through distributors. This focus has been in place for several decades, resulting in the creation of the largest independently-owned distribution network in the Americas. This distributor network provides ready access to an experienced, one-stop resource for sales, service, training, engineering, and more. This means aerospace manufacturing customers can tap into the resources of a global company combined with personalized, local service and support.
- 45 Locations throughout North and South America
- 1,200+ Employees
- 500+ Service/Parts Professionals
- 150+ Engineers
- 525+ Combined Years in the Machine Tool Industry
The Okuma Difference
- Provides a robust, high-quality CNC machine platform that delivers inherent productivity gains, consistent reliability, and is built to last
- Reduces cost of ownership by maintaining high spindle utilization (and requiring fewer costly repairs) over the life of the machine
- Incorporates industry-leading open architecture THINC CNC control functionality that streamlines processes and enhances productivity
- Enables dramatic cost reductions in manufacturing, empowering the aerospace manufacturer to win and retain business
- Allows aerospace manufacturers to deliver parts accountability and traceability with confidence
- Delivers experienced local dealer support to customize solutions for your individualized needs
Aerospace / Defense FAQs
I need to keep costs down. Does it really make sense to invest in machine quality?
Yes. Our aerospace machining customers who invest in quality continually tell us – “my Okuma is how I gain competitive advantage.” This is because a quality-built machine not only delivers quality parts, its sophisticated technologies create cost-efficiencies for the manufacturer. When it comes to cost reduction, you really do get what you pay for.
Is Okuma a big player in the aerospace machining industry?
Yes. For over 30 years, leading aerospace manufacturing companies have chosen Okuma because tough challenges require tough, sophisticated machines. One of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers chose Okuma – and only Okuma – to assist with the selection of new additions to their supply chain. When a group of the largest manufacturers (OMAC) convened to ask machine tool builders to create a non-proprietary control – only Okuma stepped up and delivered. And hundreds of Tier 1, 2 and 3 suppliers use Okumas to create competitive advantage every day.
Is there any way to make parts accountability easier?
Yes. Because of the flexibility of Okuma’s THINC control, systems can easily be implemented that automatically collect and archive every detail of the aerospace machining process. You can even customize the types of data you collect.
Labor costs are killing me, and there’s no end in sight. Can I manage these costs?
Automation is often key to remaining cost competitive. We’re experienced at delivering flexible manufacturing systems that allow for unattended or lights-out operation and reduce non-cutting time. An automation cell halts spiraling labor costs and delivers effective ROI. You can even calculate your return on investment using our interactive calculator.