Unique machine contours aircraft parts

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
The Makino 5-axis milling machine in Bldg. 140 churns out aerospace components at incredible speeds, making it a truly unique capability when it comes to servicing its customers.

"This is one of the most reliable machines we have," said Joe Romanelli, 573rd Commodities Maintenance Squadron Industrial Machine and Tool Flight director. "Its specialty is that it's made for very large aircraft components."

The milling machine can manufacture airplane parts from aluminum blocks, taking up to a 6,000-pound piece of material and cutting it down to 25 pounds. All excess chips not used are recycled.

It's been particularly busy the last few months crafting F-15 spars. It takes about 24 hours to produce a single spar, which eventually ends up as part of the aircraft's wing.

The horizontal machine includes a spindle whose speeds are up to 33,000 RPMs, or revolutions per minute, a measure of the frequency of a single rotation. In other words, it's pretty fast.

Blocks of aluminum are loaded onto a pallet and entered into the machine. While you can't see what's going on inside, an experienced operator is at the helm of the controls, watching production from a monitor just outside. Everything is automated.

Once a part is loaded inside, it stays still while a spindle moves around, up and down, back and forth, across the material, basically cutting and contouring whatever aircraft part is programmed.

"As an operator you have to be able to feel vibrations from the machine and be attuned to the intricacies of its sounds," he added.

While the milling machine is extremely efficient, fast and dependable, it provides an additional benefit for its users.

"As far as safety for the mechanic, this machine is much more safer (as opposed to older machines that were used). They don't have to do a lot of pushing and pulling. With older machines, you'd have to climb up on the sides to load pieces,' he added.

While the shop supports all weapons systems that come in for programmed depot maintenance at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, its biggest customers are customizing parts for F-15 and C-5 aircraft.