On Friday, October 6th ACE Clearwater hosted its fifth Manufacturing Day celebration – a national event of more than 2,700 companies and businesses who open their doors to educate students and their local communities about our new, creative world of manufacturing. This year ACE again hosted more than 650 students and their teachers from local middle schools, high schools, and trade schools. The ACE team created 23 work center simulations manned by our experts – employees who demonstrated many of the processes which go toward the manufacture of Aerospace and Power Generation parts and assemblies. There were also exhibits about futuristic technologies – tools which are here, now.
New this year, ACE presented “The Manufacturing Process from Conceptual Design to Final Assembly”. Twenty-three work centers showcased traditional, innovative and futuristic, state-of-the-art processes and technologies — including Computer-assisted Design Softwares, Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing), Hydroforming and Hydraulic Press Metal Forming, Robotics, Precision CNC and Conventional Machining, Oculus Rift 3D Goggles, Computer-driven Laser Cutting, 3D-Coordinate Measuring Systems, and an Interactive Welding Exhibit. We also demonstrated Specialized Raw Material Characteristics, Water Jet, and LEAP Motion movement-tracking Interactive Software.
At the core of the day’s activities was centered around the manufacture of the Apache Helicopter Primary exhaust assembly. Each work center demonstrated a different step in its production. The Apache Helicopter is heavily relied upon by the armed services, and is frequently in the harshest military operating environments imaginable. One of the significant defenses it has is the way it hides its heat signature from infrared sensors. The Primary exhausts, manufactured by ACE, have three channels which bend, obscuring a direct visibility of the engine core. The base has a special curved inset design which creates suction and pulls outer air inside to mix with the exhaust and dissipate the heat. The Secondary exhausts, to which the Primaries fit inside, wrap them in thick, thermal insulation, further protecting the vehicle from detection.
The eight “shell” sides and base components for each of these Primaries are formed from severe-heat resistant metal called Inconel, an austenitic nickel-chromium based super alloy. This metal is also oxidation and corrosion resistant, making it ideal for extreme environments. The shapes are formed from flat sheets on ACE’s drop hammers, trimmed on our 5-axis laser cutter and transported to our assembly and welding departments. There, the elements are secured by fixtures, which hold the shapes in precise alignment for welding. Our deburring team then grinds-out any remaining imperfections to a smooth surface to meet strict customer requirements. Once thoroughly inspected, delivered and installed, the Primary’s unique and complex construction resists wear-and-tear from extreme heat and vibration from the Apache’s twin GE T701D turboshaft engines.