The aircraft industry has always suffered from production constraints imposed on them due to the relatively low production volumes. The traditional high cost associated with press tooling forming is often not a viable production process and for this reason aircraft manufacturers have turned to hydro-form, sometimes referred to as flex-form or fluid cell press.
This process makes use of a low cost one piece tool, on which sheet metal is formed using the application of high-pressure oil (typical between 300-1000bar) applied via a rubber bladder.
The use of knowledgeware
TECHNIA (formerly Intrinsys) were commissioned to design a large quantity of flex form tools, the traditional approach would have been to assign a large number of engineers to the task.
Instead, the TECHNIA approach was to generate a CATIA Knowledge-Based Template, which would be used to automate the creation task. This was achieved by adding design rules and parameters into the CATIA model, which allowed a new model to be instantiated into the template and then updated so that the knowledge-based rules were then applied. The result was a process to create the tooling models and associated cutter paths in an automated manner with only minimal user input.
This approach provided a number of customer benefits:
- Reduce design lead-times
- Enforces the application of best practice and quality to be maintained across the aircraft tooling
- Enables any lessons learned during the development process to be easily incorporated into future designs
- Reduce engineering costs including design and CNC manufacture
This approach was highly successful in meeting the customer aggressive timescale.