U.K.-based AIM Altitude is establishing a “center of excellence” for 5-axis machining of composites in Waterbeach, England.

The company has acquired a new Belotti 5-axis milling machine, plus new measuring equipment and software, to do high-speed trimming of complex molded components alongside an existing Uniteam 5-axis machine.

AIM Managing Director Chris Leese-Wood says most of his projects need 5-axis machining. Producing hundreds of one-off components each month, AIM needs fast setups and turnarounds. The Belotti machine was specifically configured for AIM.

Vernon Thomas, engineering manager of AIM’s Composites division, says the business unit mostly offers build-to-print manufacturing of aircraft interiors, including first-class sky lounges and bars, first-class seating, panels and crew-rest areas. It also has extensive experience making secondary composite-airframe structures. All composite projects will exploit the new 5-axis machine in making tooling and trimming components.

“The advantages of having 5-axis capability in house are the reduced cost of subcontract machining and the flexibility for AIM Composites to deliver shorter project lead times,” Thomas says.

AIM chose Belotti equipment because it offers a dual-shuttle table with adjustable fixture-location feet. These are driven by computer-numerically-controlled coordinates that locate the fixture on the machine. “This offers speed of loading and unloading, and set-up time, unlike other vacuum tables, where each fixture requires known location points, which increases location time,” Thomas explains.

The Belotti machine has been configured with Metrology Software Product (MSP) probing software that validates the position of a component on the machine bed. Supporting computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software generates point data that have been probed at specific locations on the component. MSP uses this data to align the part relative to the posted computer-assisted design and CAM model. “It then adjusts the machine data to suit any positional errors or product deviations, providing consistent machining results,” Thomas notes.

The process sounds similar to closed-loop processing.