New Talent Series: Why Engineers Come to Aero Gear, Part 3

The final post in our “New Talent Series: Why Engineers Come to Aero Gear” is written by Kevin, a Manufacturing Process  Engineer, who has been with us since 2012:

My interest in Aerospace began at a young age. I enjoyed model rockets and airplanes and in fifth grade wrote a creative research report on World War II aircraft. Throughout high school, in Simsbury, CT, I excelled in math and science classes. Because of this and my interest in building and figuring out how things work, I decided to pursue an Engineering Mechanics and Astronautics degree at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

The beginning of my degree program focused on generalized engineering courses – statics, physics, dynamics, thermodynamics, mechanics of materials, drafting, and other similar courses. I gained the bulk of my aerospace background in my last two years at UW with courses such as aerodynamics, flight dynamics, satellite mechanics, finite element analysis and fluid mechanics. These last two years of coursework and my senior design projects, one a design for an automated ladder lift platform the second a sub orbital spaceplane concept, formed my career goals of becoming a design engineer in the aerospace industry.

After my sophomore year, I began looking for engineering internships in the Hartford area. I wanted an opportunity that would give me exposure to several different elements involved with working as an engineer. I discovered that Aero Gear was looking for a summer intern to assist several different projects, and was offered my first internship for the summer of 2010. I began by working on projects that involved basic solid modeling for tooling. This was an excellent introduction to both Solidworks and engineering standards; I had no prior experience in either area. During that summer I also worked on various Continuous Improvement initiatives which gave me a perspective on how things run in a manufacturing setting, another field in which I had no prior experience. The following summer, after my junior year at UW, I returned to Aero Gear. This second summer gave me exposure to my main interest, design engineering. I worked with design engineers creating CAD models and drawings for various prototype projects.Kevin

Before my graduation from the University of Wisconsin in May of 2012, I was offered a full time Manufacturing Process Engineer position at Aero Gear. In this role I began with simple process changes on operation sheets and have grown in two and a half years to having responsibilities that include creating processes for new jobs as well as project managing lead time and cost reduction initiatives for Aero Gear’s leading production parts. During my time here, I have had the opportunity to expand my skills by working on projects that tap into all aspects of manufacturing. Whether it is in engineering, continuous improvement, tool design, or quality, there is always something to get involved in that will highlight a wide range of skills. This diversity has provided me with an incredibly strong and versatile skill set to help set me up to become a Design Engineer, whether at Aero Gear or elsewhere down the road in my career. My experiences at Aero Gear also provide me with a solid foundation to pursue another goal of mine: a Masters Degree in Aerospace Engineering. While there are many factors that got me to where I am today, the driving factor in my success early in my career can be attributed to the opportunities Aero Gear has provided me.

New Talent Series: Why Engineers Come to Aero Gear, Part 2

The second post in our “New Talent Series: Why Engineers Come to Aero Gear” is written by Pat, a Materials Engineer, who has been with us since 2013:

My engineering career started a little differently than most peoples. While many engineers are tinkerers when they are young, my love for engineering didn’t begin right away. Luckily universities offer an “undecided” major because it wasn’t until college that I really knew what I wanted to do.

Entering my freshman year at UConn, the early goal was to get into the School of Business. After taking some general education classes like economics and psychology, and later falling asleep in class a few times, I changed my mind.

I found a perplexing major doing research online called Materials Science and Engineering – I wasn’t really sure what it was all about. Like most people, when I think of engineering I think of bridge builders or airplane designers. But no, materials engineers were the ones that laid the groundwork for those other guys. Without them, we might still be making cars out of wood or blimps out of flammable cloth.

Truthfully, I have enjoyed every minute of it. During school, I was able to use high powered electron microscopes (SEM) to see things at the nanometer level. I saw surfaces that looked smooth under the naked eye actually looked like mountain ranges under 10 million times magnification. I used x-ray machines to see the structure of atoms and to perceive things that I had read about, but never seen. During an internship in Germany, I even helped develop a coating that was as hard as a diamond yet resisted cracks and didn’t shatter if it failed. I thought it was so cool at the time.

Now a few years later, I’m still just as excited about engineering as I was when I first started school. At Aero Gear, I deal mostly with the heat treatment of gear steel. The work that I do is all done at the nanometer level: dealing with atoms, crystal structures, thermodynamics, heat transfer, and especially microstructures. Although you can’t see them with your naked eye, they are vital to the performance of a gear. Without proper heat treatment, an engine would rip apart a gearbox, and the processes and temperatures we subject the gears to ensure that they are hard, strong, and can withstand the extreme forces that a jet engine or helicopter will place on them during service.

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Working at Aero Gear has been a great experience. The work here forces you to think and problem solve, often times for many hours and over the course of many meetings. Once you do reach a conclusion however, it is satisfying knowing that you solved an issue. This is why I chose this job. I started in 2013 and was hired to implement our new low pressure vacuum carburizing furnace. Being able to do lots of research, development, and challenging myself is what I wanted from a career. Some jobs are boring, and this is not one of them.

In the future I hope to pursue my Master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering and Aero Gear has given me the work experience to excel in the industry.

New Talent Series: Why Engineers Come to Aero Gear

It’s no secret that we at Aero Gear “Insist on Excellence” in every aspect of our business -our products, our process, and our people. It’s our people, and their continuous drive to produce the best products, that really sets us apart. Over the next three months we’ll be featuring blog posts written by new engineers who have recently joined the Aero Gear team. They’ll discuss their backgrounds, why they chose to work at Aero Gear, and where they see themselves in the future.  Today’s post was written by Jeff, who has been with us since 2014:

Since I was a very young, I loved learning about how things work and how they’re made. When I was 17 years old I walked into my high school’s guidance consoler’s office not knowing what I wanted to do as a career, but walked out of it determined to become an engineer. The way he described it sounded like the perfect fit for my personality, and in the fall of the following year; I enrolled as a mechanical engineer at the University of Hartford.

It was in the middle of my sophomore year through college when I was searching for an internship, and found my future at Aero Gear. It was here that I began to discover my joy for manufacturing and aerospace technology. I took this newly discovered passion back to school and concentrated my degree studies in both fields of manufacturing and energy.

That experience at Aero Gear was a great opportunity; it was nice to work alongside individuals with many years under their belt in gear manufacturing. The workforce is very team-based, which allows newcomers to be able to learn rapidly from the knowledgeable personnel. Another benefit from this job experience is to be able to work in a high precision environment where the parts we make hold tolerances as tight Jeffas a few ten-thousandths of an inch (less than the thickness of a human hair).

Several years of all-nighters and studying later, I graduated and returned to Aero Gear to continue the path I started. I decided to return to Aero Gear because I’d be able to apply topics covered from school to learn practical applications in the real world. Currently, I am a manufacturing engineer, completing tasks involved with processing and tooling. When working in processing, I get to create op sheets that specify the dimensions and characteristics of the part at the end of an operation. These are used by machinists, inspectors, and engineers to understand what the desired outcome is, so that we produce accurate gears. When working in tooling, I get to design new job-related fixtures and gages. Here I get to apply coursework from college such as Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing, Precision Engineering, and Machine Design to determine the properties of the tool; in order to accomplish the operation in a precise and efficient manner.

In the future, I plan to continue to learn about process development and tooling required for production. I would also like to learn more about gear theory, quantitative analysis on transmission design, as well as become more informed about how the gear manufacturing industry is changing. In the long term I hope to play a role in research and development as well as product design.

CT Precision Manufacturing Interest on the Rise

Aero Gear Inc., one of the founding member companies of the Aerospace Component Manufacturers (ACM), has again participated in the Work Opportunity Fair held each October here in Windsor CT. The purpose of the Fair is to expose our regional high school and middle school students to the great career opportunities available for those who choose to go into the field of precision manufacturing, particularly in the aerospace industry. The Work Opportunity Fair idea came about several years ago as a result of the projected shortfall of skilled worker to fill the void created by the retirement of the baby-boomer generation of skilled machinists, engineers, and other technical and support staff personnel for this high tech industry.

Through the efforts of the ACM Workforce Development Team, which consists of representatives from several member companies, attendance at the fair has grown to around 800 students representing 36 schools from 27 regional cities and towns. Sixty-seven (67) ACM member companies set up booths at the fair and manned them with company representatives who explained their businesses and discussed career opportunities to the attending students.
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In addition to the Workforce Opportunity Fair, Aero Gear, and several other ACM companies, work closely with the local community college systems which have developed Manufacturing Technology programs designed to help fill the training void of skilled workers.  Working closely with Asnuntuck Community College, Aero Gear provides two to three scholarships per year to qualified students who are sincerely interested in getting into precision aerospace manufacturing.  The program, offered by Asnuntuck, trains students in both manual and CNC machining, and teaches them about quality and Lean Manufacturing through a combination of class room and hands on training with real equipment.  The program also includes an internship segment where the student actually spends time working at Aero Gear a few days a week during the second semester of study.  Upon completion of their internship and classroom training, students are typically offered full-time employment.

Through the concerted efforts of companies like Aero Gear, the area school and college administrators, business organization like CBIA, and state and federal agencies;  the support and funding of meaningful training programs designed to boost the interest in manufacturing, and develop the future skilled workforce, is working and growing here in Connecticut.

Innovate While Pursuing Productivity

Aero Gear continues to invest in new technology!

We’ve added yet another piece of cutting-edge equipment to our collection.  Our most recent addition is the Mori Seki NT Series Twin Spindle Machining Center.  This multi-axis machine is a fusion of two innovative technologies that combine both machining centers and lathes! photo 

We can now convert a slug of steel into a complex configured aerospace gear ready for carburizing and finish processing, all in one operation! Without this new technology, manufacturing required multiple turning operations, gear shaping, hobbing and milling, all to prepare the gear for final heat treatment. Now, not only are labor hours reduced, but lead time is slashed from days to hours!

The machine is equipped with probing to monitor its cutting tools and the final products.  This new feature helps us maintain the precision of the cutting tools, and ensures that our final parts are top-of-the-line quality. 

photo 2Once programed and set in motion, this equipment can run “lights out”, without a person monitoring its action.  We believe that this type of investment in technology is important to stay competitive in the global market place. Aero Gear prides itself on being a highly responsive, high-tech, lean leader. Stay tuned to learn about our next investment in the near future!

One Year Anniversary For Aero Gear Vacuum Carburizing Furnace

A little over one year ago, Aero Gear purchased a new – and very yellow – vacuum carburizing furnace in order to gain more control over case depth, hardness, and distortion compared to traditional atmosphere carburizing. Unlike atmosphere carburizing, our new furnace operates at pressures near the 1 micron range (that is 99.9999% of a perfect vacuum). What makes this technology so exciting is the ability to precisely control heat treatment parameters, and since its arrival in the beginning of July 2013, our team of engineers has been developing processes which remain consistent and repeatable. As a matter of fact, we have carburized nearly 6,000 pieces without a single metallurgical rejection.

Comparing Atmosphere and Vacuum Carburizing Results

Most of our precision gears are made out of the industry standard AISI 9310 and Pyrowear 53 steels. These low carbon steels were designed to be carburized in atmosphere furnaces, but we have seen that they vacuum carburize with more uniform case depth and hardness. The ability to drive carbon deeper into the surface also enables the gear to have much higher case hardness and compressive stresses which signify a stronger, tougher part. In addition, higher case hardness increases wear and pitting resistance.  To prove the merits of vacuum carburizing, we performed a residual stress profile using x-ray diffraction on as-carburized samples of a gear made of AISI 9310 steel. The results are below:

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Residual compressive stress in the case is 19% greater at the flank and 1260 MPa in the root when comparing vacuum vs. atmosphere carburized samples. Surface hardness for the atmosphere carburized sample is 62 HRC (Flank), 59 HRC (Root). Surface hardness for the vacuum carburized sample is 64 HRC (Flank), 62 HRC (Root).

Predictable Distortion

One of the key reasons Aero Gear has invested in vacuum carburization is more distortion control. The distortion can be very detrimental to a gear, regardless of how robust the carburizing process may be. Tooth spacing error, for instance, can lead to uneven grinding and the risk of removing too much case from one side of the tooth than the other. We use our on-site CMM (Coordinate Measuring Machine) to inspect all features of a gear, and using this data our engineers can tailor processes and fixturing on an individual part number basis. Parts carburized in our vacuum furnace distort less and have better case uniformity throughout the gear with more predictability.

Future Development

The addition of the vacuum furnace has allowed us to work on the development of heat treatment of new materials with our customers such as Ferrium C64. Aero Gear is currently developing heat treating and machining processes for Ferrium C64. This new material developed by Questek Innovations uses an M2C carbide precipitate to achieve hardness (where M is metal; C is carbon). Unlike AISI 9310 and Pyrowear 53, which use an epsilon carbide, the M2C carbide is much more effective and requires less carbon to achieve hardness. Precise carbon and temperature control is required for Ferrium C64 in order to avoid complex carbide (M6C, M7C3, M23C6, etc.) formation which could lead to crack propagation and reduced toughness during operation. Aero Gear’s engineers have developed processes to achieve optimum hardness and core properties while maintaining a carbide free microstructure. In addition, we have been developing machining processes to deal with the increased core hardness of Ferrium C64. Due to the significant amount of alloying constituents, machining parameters must be changed in order to compensate for the increased hardness and toughness. Furthermore, the capability to 2-bar quench allows us to reduce distortion, reducing machining time during further processing.

Furnace Photo Sphere

We are continually learning and advancing our ability to successfully heat treat and machine complex geometries. We have accomplished so much more than we expected with our vacuum furnace but we still have so much more to develop and learn. Our expectations for the next year are even greater than last. We are on a path to be the experts in manufacturing vacuum carburized/hardened ground gears in the aerospace industry.

Look for our next update in the near future!

Aero Gear Featured in Journal Inquirer Farnborough Air Show Article

“This is a very global industry,” Rose said of the aerospace business. “And you need to have global exposure to make it work.”

Our very own Doug Rose was recently interviewed for an article in the Journal Inquirer!  Doug, along with other leaders in the CT aerospace industry, discuss the importance of attending the international shows, and how the Department of Economic and Community Development is making it possible.

 

State’s Small Aerospace Companies Gain Contacts, Exports at Air Show

By Howard French Journal Inquirer

Connecticut’s big aerospace companies, like Pratt & Whitney and Sikorsky, weren’t the only ones to make the trip to England’s Farnborough International Air Show.

Connecticut’s smaller aerospace suppliers — including AdChem Manufacturing Technologies Inc. of Manchester, Aero Gear Inc. of Windsor, and Flanagan Industries of Glastonbury — also seized the chance to spotlight their products and capabilities on the world stage.

Aero Gear President Douglas Rose said Thursday the trip was more about making new contacts and seeing existing overseas customers than signing contracts.

“This is a very global industry,” Rose said of the aerospace business. “And you need to have global exposure to make it work.”

Rose said the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s work on behalf of smaller companies trying to achieve a global profile is invaluable.

“We would not be able to do this on our own,” he said of making a mark at major air shows like England’s Farnborough or the Paris Air Show.

Ten years ago, he said, his company was doing little or no business overseas. “Now about one-third of our business is in exports,” Rose said.

DECD Deputy Commissioner Ronald Angelo said Aero Gear’s success from the state’s program is exactly what the agency has been aiming for in the nine years the program has existed.

“This year was a real leap forward,” Angelo said Thursday. He explained that after years of taking groups of smaller aerospace companies to international air shows, foreign-based companies have begun to recognize Connecticut as a prime source of high-quality aerospace products.

“We have major companies walking into our booth now,” he said of the growing recognition of the state’s aerospace industry.

The state has nearly 1,000 smaller aerospace suppliers, Angelo said. If growth spurred by participation in global air shows results in the hiring of two or three workers at each company, he said, that adds up.

Flanagan Industries Co-owner and Vice President Kevin Flanagan also said the state’s effort to boost the smaller companies has been a major success.

“Around the world now, Connecticut is being recognized as ‘aerospace alley,’” he said, which is giving businesses like his a major boost.

Although his plant employs only about 100 people, Flanagan said he’s been able, through the state program, to make contacts around the world. At the Farnborough show, for example, he met with Asian companies for the first time and expects as a result to be visiting one Japanese company this fall to talk about future business.

Like Aero Gear’s Rose, Flanagan said that when he started eight years ago with the Connecticut program, he was doing almost no export business. Now it’s at least 6 percent of his business.

AdChem President Michael Polo said his company signed agreements at Farnborough that should result in three new contracts.

One of the biggest advantages of the’s state’s effort to bring businesses like his to the air show, Polo said, is the number of major manufacturers in one place.

“They’re all there,” he said, making it possible to get orders and leads that otherwise would have required extensive and expensive individual travel.

Polo said U.S. export restrictions such as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR, make exports difficult and lead smaller companies, including his, to consider establishing a facility overseas to make it easier to do business.

Still, he said, his company, which has about 50 employees in total, is preparing to add more workers locally as business continues to grow.

This year the state’s smaller aerospace companies at Farnborough were in a Connecticut pavilion, part of the state’s Airshow Exhibit Program, administered by the DECD in partnership with the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology Inc.

Overall, Connecticut companies have reported more than $300 million in sales generated from show participation, according to DECD statistics.