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A recently installed SmartScope MVP400 non-contact measuring machine from OGP UK is helping global sealing products manufacturer, Klinger, gain a bigger share of the UK aerospace market. Located within the company’s recently established Aerospace Test Laboratory and Cutting Centre in Bradford, the MVP400 is measuring critical gasket dimensions and compiling vital metrology reports for a select number of high profile aerospace clients as Klinger seeks to grow its proportion of business in this exciting sector.

Although Klinger has supported the aerospace sector with sealing products since 1995, the company knew that with carefully considered strategic investment it would be possible to demonstrate greater technical capability and a willingness to meet aerospace requirements head-on. This progressive tactic, which was initiated in 2008, was designed to build on the company’s reputation as a world leading sealing product manufacturer with an established track record in sectors such as oil and gas, petrochemicals, utilities and pharmaceuticals.

“We’ve had an interest in the aerospace sector for a while, but until recently the contracts we had secured relied on operations being successfully subcontracted to third party manufacturers,” explains the company’s QA Representative for Aerospace, John Holdsworth. “We had managed to attract some high profile aerospace customers but it was clear that if we wanted to maintain or increase business levels, it would entail bringing the processes in-house in order to offer greater control over product quality and delivery.”

With this in mind, Klinger visited the MACH 2008 manufacturing technologies exhibition at the Birmingham NEC. Armed with one of the company’s fibre gaskets developed for an aerospace application, Mr Holdsworth toured the stands of various short-listed measuring machine suppliers to identify the optimum metrology solution.

“The experts on the OGP stand completed the measurement task in a matter of 5 minutes,” he says. “Not only was this far quicker than the others, the software on the SmartScope MVP seemed a lot more user friendly and informative. I could see that we would be able to produce accurate results either by programming measurement routines to shapes, or by comparison to computer aided drawing of true geometries. I was impressed with the technology and I was impressed with OGP – they talked our language!”

Klinger’s aerospace gaskets are manufactured from proprietary compressed fibre sheeting, which is typically a range of asbestos-free, calendered sealing materials based around a number of different fibres and rubber binders. Such materials are inherently flexible and as such, only a non-contact method is suitable for measuring purposes.

SmartScope MVP measuring machines are fully automatic and use colour camera, precision zoom optics and programmable LED lighting for repeatable non-contact measurement (an optional touch probe can be added if required). Features include OGP’s patented SmartRing™ illuminator and OGP’s edge detection technology to accurately and quickly measure even the most complex of components.

Measure X metrology software is easy to use yet has all the sophistication and technology needed for the most challenging of measurement tasks. Features are selected with the simple click of a button and inspection routines recorded automatically. Result data can be supplied in various formats, while outputs can be readily customised to negate further administration.

Together with a CNC knife cutting machine that was installed around the same time (May 2009), the SmartScope MVP400 at Klinger forms the hub of the company’s Aerospace Test Laboratory and Cutting Centre at its UK headquarters in Bradford, where 80 of the company’s 130 UK employees are based.

“We use the MVP400 every day and it has become an invaluable resource, not just for checking gaskets, but for supplying dimension and traceability reports,” says Mr Holdsworth. “We output all of our measuring data to spreadsheets that help produce documentation such as Certificates of Conformity and First Article Inspection reports. These were essential in our progress towards the attainment of the AS9100 quality management system for the aerospace industry. This now adds to our ISO9001 accreditation and puts us in prime position to attract further aerospace contracts.”

By application, the fibre aerospace gaskets are required to be more accurate than the metallic counterparts manufactured by Klinger for other industries.

“We are typically checking aerospace gaskets to within ±0.25mm,” states Mr Holdsworth. “Considering these are flexible components measuring around a quarter of a millimetre in thickness, it is easy to see why we needed non-contact metrology as this avoids the distortion caused by probing, retains integrity and eliminates subjectivity. We make hundreds of gasket variants; some are fairly simple with just half a dozen features, while others are extremely complex, perhaps containing more than 100 different features.”

Part of the problem for Klinger is that because the gaskets are not produced by a tool, aerospace customers presently insist upon 100% inspection. Batch sizes can be up to several hundred, in which case, they can be very time consuming to measure. However, there is a way forward.

“If we can prove statistically that 100% measurement is not required we can apply for reduced inspection,” explains Mr Holdsworth. “This is why it’s been so important to have the MVP400.”

Although the company is already a leading supplier to some major players within the aerospace industry, business within this sector is currently described by Mr Holdsworth as a “small but significant” part of the company’s £24 million annual turnover. However, following its investment in new machines and resources, the percentage of aerospace business is set to increase at this pioneer of industrial gasket technology.

“We’ve made the leap now,” he concludes. “Bringing fibre gasket manufacture and inspection in-house has been a lengthy project because we wanted to get it right, however, the machines have been here for a year and we’ve proven our procedures. As a result we are looking to ramp up to higher volumes over the course of the coming months. There is no doubt that our investment in precision metrology from OGP has been vital in meeting the stringent quality specifications of our customers. Our aerospace team is now working in close liaison with our clients to ensure their supply requirements are met to the highest standards achievable.”

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