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PFW Aerospace has ordered a high-specification tube bender from Unison to support its production contract for the Airbus A350 XWB aircraft – which is scheduled to enter service in 2013.

The precision bending machine will be employed by the aerospace supplier to manufacture the fuel and bleed air tubing systems for the wings and fuselage.

The machine, which will be delivered in the third quarter of 2010, will extend the tube-fabrication capabilities of PFW Aerospace’s manufacturing facility in Farnborough, UK.

Its all-electric architecture will support the company’s lean-manufacturing strategy and save costs by reducing material waste, lowering energy consumption and speeding machine setup.

The Unison machine will provide additional features to support the A350 project work.

Among the advanced capabilities made possible by the machine’s servomotor-based architecture is precision bending at extremely slow speeds.

This attribute will be used in particular on titanium tubing parts, to exert fine control over material flow and the finished wall thickness.

Slow bending also helps titanium tubing to be bent with small radii – down to a single diameter of the tubing.

Cutting waste of costly materials such as titanium was a further selection criterion.

With the batch sizes at PFW – typically 10 to 15 parts – this approach can result in significant scrap costs.

The exact repeatability of setup offered by the closed-loop servomotor architecture of the all-electric machine means that parts will almost invariably be produced right first time, according to Unison.

One other factor in the selection process is the lifecycle support, which includes remote diagnostics.

The A350 tubing systems are being developed at PFW Aerospace facilities in Speyer and Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany, Filton in the UK and Xi’an in China.

The production phase of the contract will take place at PFW Aerospace’s manufacturing facilities in Farnborough and Speyer.

The machine being built by Unison is a single-stack tube bender from the company’s Breeze range that can handle tubing of up to 25mm in diameter.

It features a very high specification to give fine control over bending.

Key features include the ability to dynamically control the carriage boost and pressure die during the bending cycle – to allow operators to optimise bending programs for difficult materials such as thin-wall titanium tubing.

The energy consumption of the Breeze machine is very low, as the servomotors that control the motion only consume any significant amount of energy when actually performing a bend.

A conventional hydraulically powered bender, by contrast, typically consumes energy continually as the system’s fluid has to be maintained at pressure.

A comparison made by Unison of two similarly rated tube bending machines showed that an all-electric machine reduced power consumption by around 90 per cent.

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