The global aerospace manufacturing industry is renowned for administering the highest standards of quality control and for utilizing detailed inspection and testing systems. The employment of skilled staff, the use of the best available inspection and testing equipment plus the close relationships with suppliers of quality control equipment, helps to ensure the production of the highest quality safety critical parts. An example of the above is the meticulous inspection systems used by the Martin-Baker Aircraft Co Ltd and the abiding relationship the company has with Mitutoyo UK Ltd.
Headquartered in Higher Denham, some 30 miles north-west of London, Martin- Baker is the world’s longest established and most experienced manufacturer of aircraft ejection seats and related survival equipment. To date, the company has delivered more than 70,000 ejection seats to 93 Air Forces throughout the world and has saved over 7,450 aircrew lives. Given the safety critical nature of Martin- Baker’s products, they are manufactured to the highest standards of quality and reliability. Although numerous modern inspection and testing aids are used to ensure ‘as-designed’ performance, the mainstay of Martin-Baker’s inspection functions is its collection of Mitutoyo CNC Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs).
Having been an enthusiastic user of Mitutoyo CNC CMMs since the purchase of two Euro-C models back in 1997, and a further two a decade later the company has recently invested in four Mitutoyo CMMs for their inspection department. Martin-Baker’s Mitutoyo CMMs are situated in two environmentally controlled locations at the Higher Denham site, the central inspection department in the main production facility and in the company’s goods inward department.
Since the first machines were installed almost twenty years ago they have benefited from both Mitutoyo hardware and software updates. Although these CMMs still perform well, being mindful of the advancements made by Mitutoyo, a decision was recently made to invest in the latest, innovative CMM technology. After nearly twenty years of reliable and accurate service, the company’s oldest CMMs have now been replaced with Mitutoyo’s advanced Crysta Apex S9206 CMMs complete with scanning probe systems.
Darren Smith, Martin-Baker Quality Manager explained. “Martin-Baker has been the world leader in the design and manufacture of ejection seats and related equipment for more than 65 years. In light of the safety critical nature of our ejection seats, we administer a stringent quality regime and our quality ethos permeates every aspect of all of our activities. All Martin-Baker staff fully appreciate that the ejection seat may represent a crew member’s last chance to survive and that there can be no compromise on quality. Every facet of the safety system from initiation, escape path clearance, ejection sequencing, stabilization, life support and parachute descent to final rescue, must work perfectly to safeguard a life. To help guarantee the quality of our products, we make regular purchases of the best available inspection equipment and also invest in technical updates for our existing inspection aids. Having benefited from regular hardware and software upgrades, our oldest Mitutoyo CMMs have given us almost two decades of excellent, accurate service. Although, a recent impressive demonstration of the Mitutoyo Crysta Apex S CMM and the offer of a part-exchange deal convinced us to swap-out our older CMMs for the advanced Mitutoyo models.”
“As our production levels continue to rise, component throughput in our busy inspection and goods inward departments has grown accordingly. Therefore it helps that, when compared to our older machines, besides having an enhanced accuracy specification, our new Crysta Apex S9206 CMMs perform quicker measuring routines thanks to the employment of high accuracy scanning systems that enable rapid data collection. In addition to the enhanced abilities of our new CNC CMMs and the outstanding performance and reliability of our older models, another reason for remaining loyal to Mitutoyo is the excellent service we have received from the company in terms of training, support services and calibration. To allow our operators to take full advantage of our efficient new Mitutoyo CMMs, prior to installation we radically reorganized our environmentally controlled inspection and goods inward departments.” Martin Baker also uses Mitutoyo’s MCOSMOS CMM offline programming software in order to maximize the measuring time of their CMM’s. The offline MCOSMOS software allows Martin Baker to generate measuring programs away from the CMM by using CAD models rather than physical parts. This means programs are ready for execution prior to the arrival of parts thus improving workflow through the inspection department.
“Whenever possible we use our new Crysta Apex S9206 CMMs, as their CNC operation automates measuring routines and provides both accuracy and speed. In addition, removing the human element ensures repeatability and eliminates variables. On completion of an inspection batch, a fully detailed and traceable inspection report is generated for each individual component. Then any deviation from nominal conditions on component’s features can be quickly communicated back to production before an out of tolerance situation occurs.”
Mitutoyo Coordinate Measuring Machines are available in a wide range of sizes and accuracy classes to cover practically all precision 3D measuring applications. A comprehensive selection of contact and non-contact probes are available enabling a wide range of measurements to be performed. To complement Mitutoyo’s hardware, the company’s analysis software interprets measurement results at a speed that is able to keep up with today’s fast-paced production. The advanced Crysta Apex S9206 CMM has an x,y,z capacity of 905mm x 2005mm x 605mm and is designed and constructed using Mitutoyo’s experience in CNC CMM technology. The machine is built using lightweight materials and features an innovative moving-bridge type machine structure. This provides high motion stability to take advantage of the increased scanning speed and high accuracy of CMM.
Unlike some CMM producers, Mitutoyo manufacturer their own precision glass scales for each measuring axis. The measuring scale is fundamental to CMM accuracy and Mitutoyo’s are produced in an underground laboratory to ensure ultimate precision. Based on permanently installed temperature sensors, Crysta- Apex S Series CMMs are equipped with a temperature compensation system that guarantees the accuracy of measurement under temperature conditions of 16 to 26 °C.
Steve Dyke CMM Technical Manager comments. “The sterling service that the two older Martin-Baker machines have given bears testament to the quality of Mitutoyo CMMs. Each of these CMMs has been in constant use on a two-shift working pattern for the best part of twenty years and they have maintained performance throughout this time. All Mitutoyo CMM components are designed using the latest CAD techniques and are manufactured from high quality materials to ensure optimum performance, reliability and longevity. In addition to providing high quality hardware and software, Mitutoyo provide support throughout the lifetime of our equipment. As well as training staff to enable them to make best use of their CMM, we offer comprehensive calibration and support services.”