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Fanuc Robotics has been engaged by Rolls-Royce Inchinnan to look at automating the forging of gas turbine compressor aerofoils and developed simulations to allow the company to analyse the process.

Fully automated forging of gas turbine compressor aerofoils, from billet to finished forging, is now being undertaken by Rolls-Royce Inchinnan.

Two fully integrated systems, each with six Fanuc Robotics robots, have doubled capacity and removed the inherent variables of the forging process.

After illustrating several installations with Fanuc Robotics robots working in hot and dusty aggressive environments similar to forges, Rolls-Royce invested a single robot to concept several applications.

This phase allowed Rolls-Royce to prove that most tasks could be undertaken and the inherent variables of manual forging – consistency of press-to-press times and heat transfer, DAG (spray die lubricant) cover and volume, and glass coating (powder form lubricant applied to forging) consistency, tonnage and stroke of press – could be removed.

To achieve cost-down objectives and remove the variables, the decision was made to develop a fully integrated system to totally automate the process.

The business case presented for capital expenditure for total automation was approved on the basis of improved ’right first time’ – less scrap and doubling of throughput over a 24 x 5 shift basis.

The development process illustrated that at the start of a shift an operator would be as fast as the robot, but the effect of standing in front of an oven at 1,000C and repetitive actions took their toll with tack times illustrating a double output from the robot.

Fanuc Robotics was re-engaged to look at automating the process and developed simulations to allow Rolls-Royce to analyse the process.

Each system comprises two key stages in the forging process: pre-forming and final forming, taking the product from the billet stage through to a fully finished compressor aerofoil.

All equipment was designed, supplied and integrated by Fanuc Robotics with control of all individual operations, and overall system control managed by the Fanuc robot controllers.

Loaded trays of pre-glassed billets enter the first stage on a conveyor.

A Fanuc Robotics M-710iC/50 robot picks up individual billets and places them into a furnace, which indexes and presents a hot billet to be removed.

The hot billet is then placed in the first die position of a press and the robot releases the billet, signalling the press to cycle.

When the cycle is complete and the press is open, the robot clamps the sprue and positions the forging into the second die position and again releases the sprue so the press cycle can complete.

On cycle completion the robot picks up the forging and places it into a pick-up station for the next operation – shot blasting.

Tooling at each stage was redesigned specifically for automated operation and Rolls-Royce developed dies to ensure that the forging (or extrusion) was always retained in the bottom die.

After the forging is released from the pre-forming press, a smaller robot positioned around the back of the press tool, a Fanuc Robotics LR Mate 200iC robot, blows off debris from the dies and spray applies DAG (graphite release lubricant) before the next cycle begins.

The DAG operation is key to consistent product quality as excess graphite in the tool can affect the form of the forging.

The automation of the DAG process has illustrated a major benefit by ensuring a consistent application.

A later addition and part of the system’s evolution is the spray application every five cycles of dry-ice granules, which has been found to be highly effective in removing in process build-up of DAG.

The shot-blasting process is managed by a Fanuc Robotics M-20iA robot, which picks the forging up and places it under two nozzles that blast sand to clean it.

On cycle completion the robot places the billet onto an indexing conveyor that delivers it to the next stage – final forming.

An M-710iC robot inverted and mounted on a 3 Mtr linear axis is used to position the forging within the final forming cell, which begins with the electro-static application of glassing (release lubricant).

The Rolls-Royce development team found that applying glassing electro-statically eliminated the variables associated with manual glassing and supported the consistency objective.

After the glassing operation is complete the M710iC robot takes the forging to the furnace and places it into an indexer and removes a hot forging ready for final forming.

The hot forging is placed in the final forming press and the press cycle begins followed by removal on completion.

Once again a smaller LR Mate robot is core to achieving consistency at this point by applying DAG automatically after every cycle and dry-ice spray after several cycles.

The final formed aerofoil is placed into a clipping press by the M-710iC robot and then placed onto a conveyor where it travels through a soak tunnel.

On exiting the soak tunnel a Fanuc Robotics IR Vision system feeds positioning information to another M-710iC robot, which picks up the aerofoil and places it into a tray.

Finally, when 100 aerofoils have been palletised, the full tray is picked up by the robot and positioned into a collection stack to complete the operation.

Rolls-Royce is reporting significant benefits from the system – improved efficiency, doubling of capacity, improved quality and improved ’right first time’.

The removal of variables has enabled Rolls-Royce to produce to such a high quality of finish from the multi-stage forge that only a sand-blast operation is required.

In addition, producing a more constant product has resulted in less post-forging work required to finish each aerofoil.

FANUC UK provides industrial automation solutions ranging from the supply of CNC controllers, robots, drilling machines, EDM and injection moulding machines through to the complete integration of factory automation systems.

Providing a single customer support portal for its three core businesses, FANUC comprises FA — CNC controllers, motors and drives; robotics — industrial robots and systems; robomachines — EDM, injection moulding and drilling machines.


FANUC’s FA business manufactures CNC controls, drive systems and laser systems. With a 65 per cent market share in the global CNC control sector, FANUC is the market leader. FANUC CNC is the controller of choice for the world’s leading machine tool manufacturers; continuously developing functionality sees FANUC CNC control being used in a wide range of applications — combining powerful control and high precision with unparalleled reliability.

FANUC servo drives and motors are well proven — aimed at the machine builder, they offer the widest range of high-performance compact designs.  The high availability and ease of maintenance together with world-class, energy-efficient designs make them the motors of choice for thousands of OEMs around the world.


FANUC’s robotics business manufactures the widest range of robots in the world for applications from micro-electronics assembly to the forging of precision aerofoils for jet engines — in industries as diverse as pharmaceutical and potato processing — and with maximum payloads from 1kg to 1,350kg. More than 280,000 FANUC robots are operating worldwide, with production currently geared to meet demands of 5,000 per month. FANUC robots are truly ‘out-of-the-box’ automation designed to be totally flexible and, with application-specific options, straightforward to integrate.


FANUC’s robomachine business manufactures Robodrill machining centres, Robocut EDM machines and Roboshot electric injection-moulding machines. Using FANUC components throughout, the robomachine business builds on the advanced technology, reliability, energy efficiency and innovation of its own controllers, drives and motors. With a focus on energy efficiency and high reliability, the robomachine business developed the first all-electric injection-moulding machines — Roboshot — changing the mould shop into a much cleaner and quieter environment.

Customer support

From initial sales contact with FANUC through the life of the product, FANUC provides one single contact point to make sure support is always at hand with up-to-date advice, genuine warranted parts and, whenever possible, obsolescence avoidance solutions that ensure the lifetime delivery of maximum efficiency.

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