After leasing 500,000 sq-ft of the old, 1.2 million-sq-ft Dunlop Tire manufacturing plant in Huntsville, Ala., the U.S. Dept. of Defense supplier Science and Engineering Services Inc. (SES) needed a big gantrytype coordinate measuring machine. So, like many other shops, SES searched online and discovered Xspect Solutions, a company that sells new CMMs but often locates pre-owned models that are much less expensive compared to new ones.
SES had recently secured a significant number of new hardware and services contracts from the D.o.D. and related OEMs, which required more manufacturing floorspace to accommodate military equipment like tank components (turrets) and helicopters. For the helicopters, the work was modifying, upgrading, rebuilding and painting.
To fulfill these new contracts, SES installed a large milling machine and a large waterjet cutting machine with a 13-sq-ft bed capable of cutting up to 8-in.- thick armor plate. But, the one thing the shop lacked was a CMM that could inspect big airframes effectively.
“It wasn’t very difficult to find a pre-owned gantry CMM of the size that SES required because there are only six of them here in the United States,” explained Xspect Solutions president Keith Mills. “We were able to purchase an older DEA Lambda 5509 gantry machine that was originally owned by Caterpillar. This was a huge CMM, standing 300-in. high with a work envelope of 320 in. of travel in X, 128 in. in Y, and 100 in. in Z.”
Xspect Solutions went over all the machine’s mechanics thoroughly, rescaled it, replaced all original cables, retrofitted a new Wenzel CNC, and upgraded the software to OpenDMIS. When complete, the company furnished SES with a likenew CMM at 70 percent of the cost of a new machine. Xspect Solutions has since purchased two other large pre-owned gantry CMMs that await new customer commitments.
According to Millard Jernigan, vice president for special projects for the Huntsville operations of SES, Xspect Solutions explained how, in some cases, older CMM frames were originally manufactured to more exacting standards than some of the newer machines and, with the right level of remanufacture, can effectively operate for 15 to 20 more years.
“Xspect Solutions provided us with a turnkey program for this project. We consulted with them on the specifications for the isolation pad that was required and the modifications to the building that we needed. We actually had to raise the roof of the building 11 ft to get the CMM in, and ultimately provided a new ceiling for the CMM area that was 11-ft higher than was originally there,” explained Jernigan.
“We currently have our CMM technicians being trained on using the OpenDMIS software and creating the inspection programs we now need. We’ve used CMMs for a number of years, but nothing like the size of this gantry machine. This machine now allows us to accurately inspect products like 9-ft-diameter tank turrets and helicopter frames. The installation of the CMM provides SES the additional opportunity of offering quality measurement services to other commercial or government organizations.”