Leading manufacturer GKN Aerospace Transparency Systems is flying through the cleaning process at its UK site in Birmingham. Thanks to Wheelabrator Group, it has seen a 66 per cent reduction in the time taken to remove oxides from tooling parts at its factory in Kings Norton, UK. GKN Aerospace purchased a Vacu-Blast Ventus 125PR air blast cabinet to clean black residue left by the coatings process from aluminium parts housed inside its vacuum chambers.
Graham Workman, aircraft focus factory manager at GKN Aerospace, said: “Prior to installing the Wheelabrator machine, we used our wet blast cabinet to clean the tooling, but this was causing problems. This machine was used to perform surface preparation work on our products, but cleaning the dirty aluminium as well led to oxide residue contaminating the abrasive media.
DRAMATIC REDUCTION IN TIME
“By purchasing a machine specifically to remove the oxide, we’ve not only freed up the wet blast cabinet to be used for its original intended purpose, we’ve seen the dramatic reduction in the time taken to clean the parts.” Applied to the surface of windows for aircraft and locomotives in a sealed vacuum chamber, the coating acts as a de-icer, helping to keep the material clear at high altitudes and speeds. GKN Aerospace uses six machines, which together coat about 700 parts each week.
Mr Workman explained: “As our glass products are processed, the tooling inside the chamber inevitably picks up some of the coating and we replace it with duplicate parts after every production run of each type of part. The efficiency of the new Vacu-Blast machine means the tooling is ready to be refitted when it’s time for the duplicate parts to be cleaned, giving us a streamlined operation with no machine downtime.”
GKN Aerospace needed a compact machine which could fit into its current factory, near to the vacuum chambers, as it had previously transported the parts for cleaning to another floor. Mr Workman disclosed: “The Wheelabrator machine has enabled us to lower costs by recycling the media, as dry blasting allows the used abrasive to be separated from the oxide particles. It also means the parts are ready for use when they come out and we don’t have to rinse off any abrasive. In particular, the nozzle design is also preferred by our operators as we can clean the varied and complex areas of the tooling easily.”
GKN Aerospace uses high tech transparency design processes to manufacture cockpit and cabin windows for a broad range of commercial and military aircraft. At Kings Norton, where it employs more than 250 people, it also supplies products to the automotive and locomotive windscreen markets, and sells a range of bullet-resistant windows.