The Casting Department is comprised of 11 casting furnaces, and is considered the most critical step. This is where the new part is formed. A high-level review of the process steps at this location are: shell inspection, preheating, wax melting, metal pouring, and cooling. It was explained that four key disciplines are employed in the Casting Department: safety, 6S, quality, and flow. Their 6S program further defined consists of Sorting, Set-in-order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain, and again Safety. Turbine engine blades cast here can include single-crystal, directionally solidified, or conventional equiaxed crystal material processes.
The Rough Finishing Department is where shell removal and initial cleanup occurs, and traceability for each individual part is introduced. Chemical processes are used so additional strict safety standards are followed and data analysis is employed in order to minimize process variation. A high safety conciseness was apparent throughout the facility.
The last stop on our tour and the most impressive area was the PHOENIX Room, which is a combination of several departments and process steps combined together in one location. PHOENIX was the name decided upon by the group because of the numerous processes that are accomplished in this one area such as, sandblasting, bench check, visual inspection, dimensional inspection, florescent penetrant inspection, additional part marking, X-ray, final inspection, and eventually preparations for shipping to the customer.
The name PHOENIX stands for finishing (PH), operational (O), excellence (E), nondestructive testing (N), inspection (I), and X-ray (X). This area was where process flow design and lean manufacturing techniques paid huge dividends. It was explained that at the old facility a casting would travel up to 6,000 feet for accomplishment of these processes. In the PHOENIX Room that same casting travels 185 feet to complete the same process steps. Numerous inspection steps take place here as the parts are near completion. One of the inspection steps is an advanced topographic optical scanner (ATOS). The ATOS laser scanner takes a complete scan of the exterior contour of a casting, and makes a comparison to the electronic modal in its nominal condition. Through these processes, deviations from the nominal modal can be identified. These processes evaluate in great detail the dimensional quality, and are performed on every high-pressure turbine blade cast.
The next steps
Trotter says, “We are now able to offer the industry a single source for engine component design, engineering, tooling, machining, repairs, coatings and now castings.”
Chromalloy announced its plan to already expand this new facility by adding another 40,000 square feet to it in order to develop complex ceramic cores on-site. A ceramic core is used in the investment casting process to form complex features internal to a casting such as cooling passages and holes within turbine engine components. The complex core area is planned to be fully operational by January 2012. Trotter feels the new facility allows them full control of all manufacturing functions using state-of-the-art process control.
Not yet 100 percent, the facility is on its way to becoming totally green. Work is underway to become a zero-discharge facility, which includes the reclamation of waste water. As an example the shell materials are being considered for highway applications and most of the metal alloy materials are retainable.
It appears the clean-sheet approach is working as evidenced by the cleanliness of the organization of the facility, and how engaged and proud all the employees appeared. Located in all work areas were large poster-size photo standards describing at a glance how the work area should appear. Everyone spoke about safety, process, continuous improvement, and customer service.
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