Composites in Manufacturing hears how Velocity Composites has revolutionised its composite material kit cutting processes using Zund’s flatbed cutting system technology.
Formed in 2007, Velocity Composites manufactures advanced carbon fibre and process material kits for use in the production of aircraft. The Burnley headquartered company, with a second site in Fareham, uses its process knowledge, industry accreditations and proprietary technology to reduce the amount of material and process waste created in the manufacture of advanced composite aerostructures. In turn, this reduces the aircraft manufacturers’ costs to allow its customers to meet the cost challenges and rate demand from the global OEMs such as Airbus and Boeing.
The majority of the raw materials used by Velocity are supplied on rolls, and are both expensive and temperature sensitive with long lead-times from single source providers. Having used equipment from other suppliers, Velocity Composites purchased its first Zund cutter in 2011 for its aerospace composites kit manufacturing department. Today, the company has a total of 12 Zund G3 digital cutters across its Burnley and Fareham state-of-the-art production sites.
“We first spoke to Zund ten years ago and we were very impressed with the flexibility and endless digital opportunities the cutter offered,” states Velocity Composites’ chief executive officer, Jon Bridges. “As a high-end service provider in a very regulated industry, business flexibility is very important to us because we don’t just cut a limited number of known products. Our customers expect us to be flexible and process various composite materials, depending on the parts being manufactured and the end use.
“The Zund G3 proved to be very adaptable, and the versatile tools could process various materials with ease. We were also impressed with Zund’s approach to software flexibility as we have developed our own system to drive the machines, manage material efficiency and control the technical requirements of our products. This was an important factor to us as the digital machines allowed for our manufacturing cells to talk to our VRP system in real-time and confirm process adherence, traceability and control.”
Due to the size of Velocity’s global customer and supplier base, it has always worked towards being the advanced technology centre of excellence for material management and manufacturing. The company has invested heavily in the Internet of Thing (IoT) and has built proprietary software for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with its Zund cutters and other systems over the internet.
“Real-time data is always more valuable than seeing data from past events,” continues Bridges. “We need real-time awareness of how much material we are using, any material defects we have had to work around, material batch traceability, how often the cutters are stopped (including cause) and their production start time and end time. This information is fed through to our live dashboard system, which is reviewed by production managers in real-time.
“We also want to take an Industry 4.0 approach using our data and reduce manual steps in our workflow, integrate with all other parts of our system and automate processes where possible, including material stock control, freezer movements and job planning. The Zund cutter is a very important junction to our manufacturing process, as it both receives and creates valuable process data which we can use to control, report and improve.”
Right first time
The company also holds stock of Zund critical parts at its sites to ensure production never halts and customer orders are always delivered on time.
“Strategic supply chain alliances are very important to us as we look to integrate existing technology into our business,” says Bridges. “Our relationship with Zund has always been evolving and their approach to this was one of the many reasons why we chose their solution above others. They have always supported our customer first and digital manufacturing approach and enabled us to develop our capability to deliver growth.”
In line with the global nature of its business, Velocity Composites is entering the North American market equipped with two Zund G3 Digital Cutting Machines. The subsidiary in the USA is looking to expand the company’s manufacturing excellence by creating advanced ‘flexible’ manufacturing sites equipped with Zund digital cutters. These highly adaptable sites can easily and quickly be constructed in a matter of weeks to be based close to or on-site with customers. This scalable model has global reach and potential that Velocity Composites has identified as key to rolling out its technology and services alongside customers.
Dean Ashworth, Zund UK’s sales & marketing director concludes: “We have a great working relationship with the senior management team at Velocity that has been built up over many years. Velocity’s innovative growth plans are certainly impressive and ambitious and as a key strategic partner, Zund UK are here to support them every step of the way.”