Our Stories 05 Development of BIDEMICS
Story 05Launch New Cutting Tools That Impact the Expanding Aircraft Industry
More and more wings fly all over the world.
With travel demand that increases 5% annually, the global scale of commercial aircraft market is expected to expand around to 30,000 aircrafts and 5 trillion dollars. *
Engine manufacturers have to produce more parts more efficiently in order to satisfy aircraft's growing demand.
October in 2015. NGK SPARK PLUG CO., LTD. launched BIDEMICS and this news surprised the industry. BIDEMICS enable us to cut engine parts for aircrafts more stably and faster.
Here, we will investigate the challenges of pioneers who accomplished the development of totally new cutting tools.
* "Current situation and issues in the aircraft industry of our country," Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, March 2013.
Koide：Project leader. In charge of marketing in the US and Japan.
Katsu, Mogi：In charge of basic research and material development.
Sugimoto：Produces and evaluates prototypes.
Watanabe：In charge of function and feature evaluation and test vilification.
Komura, Toyoda, Kuroki：In charge of mass production development.
A new project that will contribute to the aircraft industry.
If you climb a mountain, the higher should be better.
NGK SPARK PLUG CO., LTD. has been involved in the cutting tool business since late 1950s. We have launched various cutting tools such as ceramic tools with high wear-resistance and tools made of micro grain carbide. Of course, some cutting tools are for aircraft industry—.
"Since aircraft engine parts are highly complicated in design and also expensive, it is not allowed for cutting tools to influence the quality of parts by abrasion. They are always needed to have both strength and hardness and expected to increase machining efficiency," Koide talked about manufacturing characteristics in the aircraft industry.
Heat-resistant alloys are mainly used for aircraft engines. They should endure temperature over 700 °C, sometimes over 1000 °C. Also, part material is very hard and difficult to machine. This is technically a hard aspect for cutting tools. First, cut chips are easy to fly and melt on the tools. Also, when the melted chips peel off from the grade, micro crack occurs and it might deteriorate cutting ability. This is why they are called as "difficult-to-cut materials."
Some whisker reinforced ceramics that are currently used for cutting should be exchanged in each five minutes to avoid tool deterioration.
Then, NGK SPARK PLUG CO., LTD. focused on the development of new material and new cutting tool for this "difficult-to-cut material."
The goal of this project was set to create new cutting tools that have more than twice of performance compared to traditional tools in aircraft parts machining.
To establish new ideas, project team chose material and production method that surpass the existing concept.
Totally new material is necessary to realize desired target.
Katsu and Mogi were appointed to lead the development.
"The burning temperature of aircraft engines are increasing in order to save fuel cost. Moreover, production amount of engines is also expected to increase, and better production efficiency is anticipated in the field. Therefore, improvement of current material was not good enough, and development of absolutely new material was necessary instead."
Katsu and Mogi chose to select definitely different material and production method that differ from traditional materials such as ceramics, cermet and carbide.
However, there were some colleagues who questioned "if the plan would go well and could achieve a good result," over the selection of totally new material and method.
The first mission for them was to obtain understanding on their challenging idea.
"We were confident to succeed when we adapted new material and method that we conceived at that time," Katsu stated, but there were some more challenging tasks than imagined to promote development by actually making prototypes and by reflecting market needs.
"Cutting tools for aircraft engine parts should have all properties of strength, toughness, heat-resistance and hardness. It is not allowed to sacrifice one thing to strengthen another property. It was very difficult to increase all properties more than ever at the same time," Mogi says looking back the tough time.
In addition, it was not easy to verify various properties with just analyzing source materials. At this experimental stage, Sugimoto made a lot of prototypes and evaluated each ones.
"I can't count how many prototypes I made including when mixing of source materials, sintering and processing them," Sugimoto laughs. It was only Sugimoto's work that could identify physical basic properties as material source.
Target was found in repeated evaluations.
Watanabe took the baton by evaluating prototype's performance in the company laboratory.
"Since the beginning of the project, it was delightful to evaluate and assess numerous samples they brought, and to see how they improve the product."
His work became to be a guidepost for their project.
Meanwhile, it is an important process to evaluate prototypes in actual usage situation.
"We offered our prototypes to various clients and received feedback to fill the gap between their evaluation and our in-house test, and revised our evaluation method to establish a new method. First, it was necessary to judge if our test method is correct," said Watanabe.
There was a difficult aspect in manufacturing for aviation.
"In the case of aircraft manufacturing, a production line doesn't always work on the same parts like mass production. After one part is machined on the top surface, then the bottom surface will be machined. Cutting tools are always used in different conditions. Also, the property of each part is different. Therefore, it was very difficult to evaluate tools precisely."
As it was a challenge to totally new field, there were many unexpected things, but finally they came across to the goal.
They achieved a result that much surprised client's members in a field test.
All members were surprised at the tool ability that surpassed their expectations.
"Asked by the client, we brought our BIDEMICS prototype and set them to the actual milling machine," Koide started to talk about the situation. The issue was to mill a piece twice faster than the conventional one in order to double its productivity twice higher.
They started the machine 1.7 times faster in maximum with limit of the milling machine. Although the process took 15 minutes with conventional tools, this time it took 8 minutes to finish. The part was a real one used actually in the process even though this was a trial test. The part may cost some million yen.
"We can't see the tool and the part during the process as the tool was working in the machine box. Although we had confidence, we were worried if the tool edge may chipped or if it could machine as designed. When we checked the processed part, there was no chip or damage on it. We were confident, but the result surpassed our expectations," the team was surprised.
However, the members of the clients got surprised more.
"What is this!" "How did you make this!"
On hearing these, other members of the clients gathered to see the prototype.
Remembering how they came up to the result, Koide and members continued to explain.
This result excited all the members of this project.
Especially Komura, Toyoda and Kuroki, who were in charge of mass production were energized.
Both development team and production engineering team never compromised on their work.
BIDEMICS, the series that material development team created. After the function evaluation and test verification, they finally came to the last challenge, the mass production.
The prototype obtained the highest quality. They should maintain the high quality when they scaled up the production amount to mass production.
"We despaired at the first time. Since there was no piece that could show the original property although we produced 1,000 pieces," said Toyoda, who was in charge of mass production.
Toyoda and Kuroki repeated evaluations, and then finally established the process that can manufacture products with the highest quality. Sometimes their opinion confronted with the development team. However, they both never compromised and pursued the best production method toward common goal. Finally, they established the system for the mass production.
"Since BIDEMICS are made of different material from conventional ones, we should established different method for mass production. Despite some troubles, we should at least try. Then we commonly had a passion to create a definitely new material that could support our whole company in future."
Success in the project was supported by the company culture, in which project members and their colleagues look forward the same direction, encourage and help each other.
They find hints for success even in a failure. Then, they continue to take on any challenges.
BIDEMICS has infinite possiblilities and we can expect it to be evolved even more.