Using 3D printing, JJ Churchill has reduced the time to prepare fixtures by 70% in its CMM quality inspection process, and reduced costs by 50%. The company worked in partnership with HK3D to produce the fixtures, which are being used for an OEM in the aerospace industry.
JJ Churchill is a precision engineering manufacturer located in England between the cities of Birmingham and Leicester. Founded by Walter Churchill on Christmas Day 1937, Churchill Components, as the company was originally known, supplied machined parts such as exhaust valves for radial aero-engines. Today, the aerospace industry remains one of the company's major markets.
Engineers at JJ Churchill in Market Bosworth, England are experts in the production of gas turbine blades from forgings, castings and solid billet.
The manufacturer produces bespoke fixtures to hold a complex range of parts being machined on site. Recently, they needed to find a fixture to hold components in the most effective orientation for the CMM. It needed to deliver repeatable precision loading and ease of use. Usually a fixture could only be manufactured once the components have already been machined and the process typically took two weeks.
However, JJ Churchill worked with HK3D to design and deliver a working fixture in three days. Traditionally, the fixture would have been manufactured by machining out of a block of metal. The new additive process not only saved time but also reduced costs by half, with much less waste.
JJ Churchill has moved to 3D printing for fixtures.
It also removed a potential bottle neck. Traditional manufacturing prove-out processes follow a linear path:
The fixtures are precision machined components which comprise many intricate parts. This is often a time-consuming and resource-hungry process, involving many machines and many skilled engineers. Specifically, the 2nd and 3rd step above can create a bottle neck. But JJ Churchill and HK3D developed an alternative solution for fixturing to remove this bottle neck.
Employing additive manufacturing in some aspects of the production process is making these resources work more effectively.
3D printed fixture
Karan Singh, one of JJ Churchill's manufacturing engineers and the lead in additive manufacturing, said: "The benefits of bringing 3D printing into traditional manufacturing process are huge. In this project, not only did we achieve significant savings in time and money, but our knowledge and capability has rocketed."
"It made us analyze a problem in different ways and pushed our way of thinking. It has also changed the way I think as a design engineer, and I have found it highly fulfilling. This is a great example of additive and traditional manufacturing working in synergy to deliver huge savings in time and money."
The fixtures are precision machined components which comprise many intricate parts.
Managing Director Andrew Churchill said, "This is another example of JJ Churchill applying emerging technologies to component manufacturing and inspection techniques. The adoption of 3D printing and its application to the way JJ Churchill engineers products, fundamentally increases our agility as a business to meet our customers' new product Introduction timescales, while at the time reducing the cost of tooling."
Tom Smith, Sales Manager of HK3D, added:
"By investing time into this project, JJ Churchill has worked closely with our team of application engineers to fully optimize our range of additive technologies. As a result, they have really started to unlock the true benefits of additive manufacturing. With new ground-breaking technologies on the horizon we are excited to see how JJ Churchill's team will continue to evolve and apply them to their existing manufacturing processes."
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