Safety first

Uploaded 09 Apr @ 08:07am

Nothing in the manufacturing industry epitomises human safety more than the name Martin-Baker Aircraft Co. Founded in 1929, as an aircraft manufacturer that evolved to aviation ejector seats, the main entrance to the Uxbridge company’s headquarters has a large screen with a live update on the lives saved to date. Incredibly, the world’s leading manufacturer of aviation ejection seats has saved more than 7,578 lives to date with 19 pilots saved in 2018 so far.
Since 1946, Martin-Baker has delivered more than 85,000 seats to 91 nations with more than 16,000 seats currently in service in 78 countries across 51 aircraft types. For more than 25 years, Martin-Baker has been measuring and controlling the quality of its seats and the critical life-saving components with the help of metrology experts Mitutoyo.
With ejection seats in all areas of aviation from helicopters and light propeller aircraft to fighter jets, Martin-Baker currently produces more than 40 seats each month plus a complete variety of components for the regulatory maintenance and repair cycle of existing seats in service. Producing everything from spares for seats dating back to 1949 through to more than 700 parts for each Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) seat, Martin-Baker has 25,000 live components and beyond 50,000 parts on its inventory list. With components manufactured by 25 CNC machine tools, at the centre of the 800-employee manufacturing site is a four machine 72 pallet DMG cell that runs 24 hours a day for 364 days a year.
Ensuring that components conform to the exacting standards of Martin-Baker, the company has an inspection department with 55 staff that relies heavily on inspection equipment from Mitutoyo. Discussing the relationship with Mitutoyo, Inspection Manager, Darren Smith, says: “Martin-Baker has had a long association with Mitutoyo, using hand tools like micrometers, vernier calipers and height gauges as well as CMMs for more than 30 years. As our company has evolved, so has the technology. We now have five Mitutoyo CMMs, three SurfTest machines, a Contracer, two training kits and the Mitutoyo MeasurLink system for Statistical Process Control (SPC).We also have over 300 Mitutoyo hand-tools and gauges on-site.”
He continues: “They provide us with a great service and for every challenge we’ve had to meet, Mitutoyo has come up with a solution. The whole infrastructure and the wide range of equipment Mitutoyo can provide us, gives a really strong platform to meet the challenges placed upon us. We have been using Mitutoyo packages across the board. It’s not just about the hardware, we also use the MeasurLink software that helps us with our measurement system analysis program and this allows us to gauge our R&R and SPC. We’ve also used and integrated the Mitutoyo training packages such as on-site training and we have even bought training kits and equipment to support our own training workshop and the development of our own staff.”
Referring to the components manufactured at Martin-Baker, Darren Smith says: “We have an ever-increasing demand put upon us by our design department, so over the last few years for instance, they have changed the principles of how we tolerance our drawings. We have gone more down the lines of gauge and dimensional tolerancing (GD&T) and the demands placed upon the business has required us to have more applicable equipment to actually meet these demands. We’ve looked in the last 5 to 6 years at investing in standardised equipment across the board that meets all the demands our design team place on us.”
From a hardware perspective, Martin-Baker has two Crysta Apex 9206 CMMs in its inspection department with another checking components at goods-in, while a smaller Crysta Apex 9106 CMM sits alongside the DMG Mori production cell on the shopfloor. The West London facility also has two CV3200 Contracer form measurement machines for inspecting contours and profiles as well as three SurfTest Extreme SV-3000 CNC surface roughness measuring machines.
What makes this technology and configuration genuinely impressive at Martin-Baker is the investment in peripheral equipment and software that works in complete synergy with the hardware. Each CMM has a standardised and comprehensive rack of probes and this includes the SP25 analogue scanning probe with the scanning software module that is part of the Mitutoyo M-COSMOS 3 software suite. For Martin-Baker, the SP25 probe provides continuous contact with the workpiece and this improves the inspection cycle times while giving 100% inspection on free-form shapes. The circularity and concentricity of holes and bores is guaranteed with the constant probe contact that multiplies the measuring points, giving the customer complete confidence in its inspection processes.
The SP25 analogue scanning technology works in complete synergy with the CAT 1000PS surface analysis software. This CAD modelling suite enables Martin-Baker to rapidly load its CAD models direct to the CMM and overlay the CAD models with the path of the inspection probe. By scanning components directly from CAD models, Martin-Baker has standardised its procedures, instilled an unparalleled measurement process ethic among staff and also slashed metrology programming times. By selecting the most efficient probe paths and cycle routes, the CAT 1000PS technology has enabled Martin-Baker to build a part library and continually optimise the probing cycles.
Commenting upon the software implementation at Martin-Baker, Mitutoyo’s Technical Sales Representative, Chris Pullen says: “The M-COSMOS 3 software suite that incorporates the CAT 1000PS technology has standardised processes and provided a uniform platform for measurement at Martin-Baker while improving inspection cycle times and throughput. Furthermore, the ability to store a complete library of optimised programs creates a platform for historical and uniform inspection. More recently, Martin-Baker has invested in the latest edition of the Mitutoyo MeasureLink software for statistical process control (SPC). This software provides complete PPK and CPK reports with charts and histograms providing comprehensive reporting that enables Martin-Baker to measure, monitor and review not only current production dimensional values, but also measure values against historically recorded data. This data can be recorded on every feature of every part produced and this is the level of uniform conformity that Martin-Baker is investing in.”
While the implementation of the latest Mitutoyo technology is reaping benefits for Martin-Baker, the company is always looking forward. From this perspective, Martin-Baker has recently added the Mitutoyo U-Wave wireless technology that enables equipment from hand tools such as micrometers and vernier callipers to be connected wirelessly via Bluetooth to the M-COSMOS 3 software to automatically generate uniform inspection reports on components. Martin-Baker can select the measurement parameters for the report and the respective parts. From this, shopfloor staff can instantly generate inspection reports.
This deluge of data and reporting is all provided on a ‘live’ platform that can be overseen by the inspection manager through a ‘process analyser cell’. Darren Smith confirms: “The ability to view inspection data of hundreds of parts and thousands of measurement parameters on a live basis enables us to monitor our SPC values against production and identify any deviation in production data. We can feed this measurement data to the production department and identify issues on particular machines, components or processes within a cell.”
Mitutoyo is one of the few metrology specialists that has its own UKAS certified laboratory in the UK. This enables the Andover inspection specialists to calibrate its own inspection equipment for its customers to a certified standard in the UK. All equipment supplied to Martin-Baker passes through the Mitutoyo laboratory in Coventry to ensure equipment meets internationally accredited standards.
Darren Smith concludes: “Over time you have an evolution of production techniques, material technology, machining capabilities, design and manufacturing methods and much more. To meet all of these demands, we have to not only look at what we need to do today but also anticipate and plan for future generation programs. The Mitutoyo service and support encompasses everything from hand tools and gauges through to CNC inspection machines, the supporting software and reporting technology, calibration, staff training and more. It is the belief in this ‘all encompassing’ service that gives us complete confidence that Mitutoyo will not only meets our demands today, but also for the long-term future.”

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