Machine Shop Uses Forging Press to Reduce Titanium Parts Costs

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To produce complex titanium parts more cost-effectively, machine shops are increasingly integrating advanced forging equipment to complement their existing CNC capabilities to create near-net-shaped parts that only require machining. minimal. In some cases, the forging process is so precise that no additional machining is required.

Thanks to recent advances in the controls and automation of hydraulic forging presses, precision titanium parts can be forged to extremely tight tolerances and at relatively high volume. Forging also significantly reduces titanium input costs by up to 50%.

Machine shops add forging equipment to create precision titanium components. Above, FPD company has installed advanced forging equipment to create net-like parts.

However, to forge titanium to precise specifications, machine shops require the right equipment with extremely tight control of production parameters. Fortunately, advances in hydraulic press design, controls and automation are helping to optimize component quality, production and price.

Pennsylvania-based FPD Company, a machine shop that produces aerospace and medical components, is investing in a custom press capable of better control with higher tonnage.

“We wanted to increase our forging envelope, and that required a larger press with more sophisticated controls for the titanium parts. We already had a 2,500 ton press, which is relatively small for titanium. At the same time, we needed to improve control, quality and cycle times,” said Jeff Speicher, general manager of FPD.

Partners with the forge manufacturer

To achieve its production goals, FPD has partnered with Erie Press Systems, a manufacturer of individually designed mechanical forging presses and hydraulic presses since 1895 that is now part of Ajax-CECO-Erie Press, the world’s largest supplier of forging equipment in North America.

Erie Forging
Thanks to recent advances in the controls and automation of hydraulic forging presses, titanium parts can be forged to extremely tight tolerances, at relatively high volumes.

Although Erie Press engineered, designed and built the system, FPD provided significant input into the design requirements. The result was a custom high-speed hydraulic press capable of producing 3,000 tons at a fully controlled and programmable speed and load profile over the entire stroke.

“The custom press, along with our engineering and tooling, allows us to maintain extremely tight tolerances consistently when creating titanium parts for the aerospace and medical device industries. With the right equipment, forgings are extremely consistent and we can produce near clean shapes that require little or no machining. If a part requires additional machining for holes, bores and other secondary features, we can do that too,” said Speicher, adding that FPD provides extensive on-site 5-axis CNC machining services.

Precise control of forging stroke, force

According to Speicher, Erie Press forging equipment is designed with a servo-hydraulic system that allows for better control of forging stroke and applied force. Press control modulates servo-proportional accumulator relief valves to maintain set speed regardless of load, ensuring consistent forging performance. This arrangement provides flexibility to forge parts over a wide range of speeds not possible with a mechanically adjusted accumulator discharge rate setup.

HMI
A user-friendly graphical HMI helps operators monitor processes so they can troubleshoot problems.

For some part geometries, the strain rate of titanium may require varying velocity profiles throughout the forming process. Changing the rate of strain allows the FPD to improve die life while creating more detail by filling the webs and corners of the die cavity later in the stroke. According to Speicher, the servo-hydraulic system allows extremely high resolution in setting these parameters. In addition, the press position controller publishes to FPD’s factory server a high-speed plot or digital signature corresponding to each part’s forging cycle for historical records and reference.

FPD can also control the press to strike the part at a specific force or at a preset tonnage limit. In addition, the press can reach a programmed position with a position accuracy of less than 0.01″.

Erie Press’ Human-Machine Interface (HMI) allows operators to see how the press is performing and anticipate its performance. This is accomplished with dynamic animated models and diagrams, live trends and diagrams. HMI is a software application that graphically presents information to operators about the status of various processes in a format that resembles the actual machine or display panel. The information can be viewed locally (on the machine) or remotely (in the factory or offsite) via a PC, laptop or smartphone.

“Erie Press has incorporated a very user-friendly graphical HMI into the design that can guide even an unfamiliar person through the forging process step by step,” Speicher said, adding that the forging press manufacturer’s HMI system is a “digital virtual”. twin” of the real machine as it works.

“The press is equipped with sensors that monitor cylinder position, pump flow and valve positions, and all of these parameters are monitored in a digital representation of the press. With the HMI, the operator sees how the machine is working in real time,” Speicher said.

The HMI also helps operators monitor what is happening with enough information to successfully resolve issues and quickly bring equipment back online if necessary. For example, operators can quickly “drill” into a top-level animated schematic to examine the performance of specific components, such as valves and pumps, and locate information on part numbers and wiring diagrams. Up-to-date PDF technical documents and schematics for each machine component are also searchable and can be quickly displayed as needed.

Erie Press forging equipment incorporates automation that allows the operator to change hot dies in less than ten minutes. A change of forging is completely automatic, requiring only inputs on the HMI. Billets and titanium parts are preheated in an electric furnace, while tooling is preheated offline. The operator, working behind an interlocking gate system for safety, uses a joystick to transfer the tooling into the press, which is hydraulically fixed in place. A barcode is scanned at the production router, which calls a part-specific forging program into the controller.

FPD worked with Erie Press to incorporate safety features such as preventing the program from running if the tool and part barcodes do not match the router, and a safety run that the operator must run before switching to automatic mode.

“As we produce a lot of small series, we can set up several times a day and this gives us enormous production capacity”, explains Speicher.

For machine shops, adding advanced titanium part forging to their existing machining capability can not only help improve production speed and control, but also significantly reduce manufacturing costs. inputs, which increases the bottom line.

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