API Services Helps Flying-S Unlock Their Machine Tool’s Full Potential

12 July 2023 · 4 min read

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API Services Helps Flying-S Unlock Their Machine Tool’s Full Potential

MSP uses Partnership with CR-Onsrud, Radian Laser Tracker and STS to Compensate 41ft. Working Volume 

The tightest tolerances of military and civilian air and spacecraft cannot be hit by many machine tools as installed, and the designs of these crafts are only getting more complex and demanding as time goes on. Even if machine tools are leveled and squared at installation, they often need more comprehensive Volumetric Error Compensation (VEC) to repeatably produce accurate parts. So, when Flying-S was looking to expand into larger components, they needed to ensure the full working volume of their new C.R. Onsrud gantry. Fortunately, the Real Metrologists of API Services are partnered with all new C.R. Onsrud installations. Using Radian Laser Tracker and SmartTrack Sensor (STS), API Services was able to: 

  • Evaluate and square the machine and scales at installation 
  • Perform VEC to reduce errors by more than 50% across the entire working envelope 
  • Unlock additional applications for Flying-S to perform with the machine 

Flying-S started in a hangar barn home in 2001 in Crawford County, Illinois, with just a couple of machines and a CMM tucked in the corner. The quality of Flying-S’ people and production grew steadily over time, until they were able to move into a much larger facility in 2012 which now houses more than 90 employees. But as the military and civilian air and spacecraft industries continued to evolve, Flying-S found themselves needing to machine larger components to support their customers’ needs. Wanting to stay with the Fanuc controllers their operators were familiar with, the team at Flying-S determined that a G Series five axis moving gantry fixed table from C.R. Onsrud would have the working envelope they needed. And it was early in the quoting process with C.R. Onsrud that Flying-S learned of their partnership with API Services.  

Across a machine that has 41ft of X travel, eight foot of Y and four foot of Z, Flying-S’ main concern was the accuracy and rigidity of the machine throughout its entire working volume. And because of C.R. Onsrud’s partnership with API Services, Flying-S has access to an expert team of Real Metrologists from the beginning of the process. API Services was present right from installation. As the machine was assembled, API Services’ Application Engineers were onsite, evaluating the machine’s level, squareness, and accuracy from the start. When the machine was assembled, it maintained an accuracy of .0015” across it’s entire 41ft. machine length. 

But that was just the beginning of API Services’ support for Flying-S. As Flying-S was looking to hit even tighter tolerances for aerospace wing manufacturing, they added VEC to their package from API Services. API Services’ VEC uses Radian Laser Tracker and STS to provide real-time 6DoF measurements for the entire working volume of a large machine tool. This allows the proprietary software to create a complete error map of the machine tool which can be loaded into the machine controller for compensation and improved repeatability. 

VEC from API Services reduced the errors in Flying-S’ new machine tool by more that 50%, from .0015” to ~.0006” anywhere in the work envelope, any orientation of the spindle repeatably. That dramatic change in repeatable performance has unlocked applications for Flying-S that would have previously been unreachable. 

“Our engineering group is able to say yes on the phone, whereas before they were like, well, we don’t have that travel,” says Peter Bowman, Manufacturing Engineer at Fling-S. “The accuracy that API has been able to provide us has given us the ability to produce eight-foot by eight-foot parts in a four-foot volumetric area on parts that are wings that are 41ft long. We’ve never been able to have that capability.” 

And that increased capacity was the start of a years-long partnership between API Services and Flying-S that has changed the way Flying-S is able to do business. 

“We will always purchase API Services when we buy C.R. Onsrud, from now on,” Peter says. “It has affected every aspect of Flying-S. It literally changes the way your machine works. It is so much more accurate. And when problems arise, I can get them fixed with a phone call or with a visit. It’s unbelievable. Our C.R. Onsrud and the services API have been able to provide us have been able to allow us to be able to work on customers parts, some of which are in space. Many of them have helped save the lives of many soldiers. They’ve allowed us to get into customers shops that we would never be able to get to.” 

API Services’ support of Flying-S has extended beyond this initial VEC (and subsequent routine calibrations). Check back on this blog next month for part 2 of this Case Study Series: Who to Call to Repair a Damaged Machine Tool. 

API Services’ VEC can help unlock applications that your machine tools are currently unable to perform. And their Globally Local team of Real Metrologists is standing by to assist with measurement needs from alignment and inspection to scanning to machine, robot, CMM, and Laser Tracker calibration in every industry with their unique combination real-world experience and state-of-the-art OEM equipment. Click here to learn more about API Services or fill out the form below to contact us and speak to a Real Metrologist today. 

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