2017 is looking promising for the aerospace industry, driven by increasing military investments and a growing commercial/regional aircraft market.
This forecast is increasing jobs and manufacturing work throughout the country, forcing aerospace manufacturers to rely more heavily on automation to complete high-volume projects.
Manufacturers serving this industry are also increasingly investing in automated inspection equipment to maintain high quality while keeping up with mass production — and many are custom manufacturing their automated equipment.
With two facilities combining to 57,000 square feet of metal stamping, machining, assembly, and inspection equipment, Connecticut-based Engineering Specialties, Inc. (ESI) is always on the lookout for the latest technology to better serve its aerospace customers.
We sat down with ESI President Ron Delfini to learn more about the automation engineering equipment they have custom-built and implemented in their facility.
Q: What types of parts does ESI manufacture for the aerospace industry?
Ron Delfini: At ESI, we offer a number of high-precision metal stamping, machining, and assembly services for aerospace projects. We’ve manufactured parts like air restrictors, tail landing gear, blade clamp assemblies, and many critical stamped and machined components.
Tolerance repeatability is imperative for these types of projects, so we use advanced vision inspection technology custom-adapted by our in-house team of engineers. The systems they’ve made simultaneously check dozens of pre-specified tolerance criteria in milliseconds.
Q: Why is automated inspection so critical for this industry?
Ron: A single aircraft requires thousands of metal parts, so aerospace component orders come in at very high quantities. We might have to manufacture 50,000 parts per week just for one company. It would take months to inspect all of those parts manually — and companies just can’t wait for that kind of turnaround time. That’s why we rely on automated technology.
Q: So how do these automated inspection machines work?
Ron: One of our machines — we call it the Green Seal Machine — has an automated rotary table with seven different stations to assemble and inspect parts at the same time. Once the parts pass through the first six stations defect-free, they’re deposited at the last station to be processed for shipment.
We also have a proprietary vision inspection machine where parts are dropped through a small window, triggering a laser sensor camera that checks for defects as they fall. These machines allow us to inspect over 500,000 parts per week.
Q: How accurate are the automated inspection machines?
Ron: These machines aren’t just faster than manual human inspection — they’re also more accurate. We can measure feature tolerances down to hundredths of a millimeter. With our automated inspection equipment, we’re able to quickly deliver millions of parts with zero defects.
Q: How often is new automated technology required?
Ron: We’re always looking for new ways to increase efficiency. If we’re working on a project and think we can increase product quality while decreasing turnaround time, we’ll custom-build a machine specific to that part.
Q: Have you invested in any other technologies that have improved your aerospace manufacturing processes?
Ron: We use 3D printing to prototype new parts for clients quickly and cost efficiently. This allows us to perfect a design before taking on a full production run.
See for Yourself — Visit ESI
ESI is always happy to show visitors around our 30,000-square-foot North Branford, Conn., facility, or our brand-new 27,000-square-foot facility located just down the street. Contact ESI today to schedule a visit and learn more about our industrial automation equipment.