Very Impressive Performance Extreme Removal (VIPER) grinding was introduced into the production and manufacturing industry in the late 1990s, designed as a replacement for creep-feed grinding of nickel-based superalloys.
The viper grinding process involves pre-formed small diameter grinding wheels that are used as tools on CNC machining centres to accurately machine features on nickel alloy turbine blades. The process is much faster than superabrasive grinding and far more flexible than the creep feed grinding process.
Blades for grinding are mounted in a flexible fixture. Within the Viper grinding cell, a robot transfers the blade between the machining centres and CMMs.
It was developed by a Rolls-Royce engineer, who had the idea of a clean wheel grinding process that could be integrated with conventional milling and drilling operations on a tool-changing machining centre. Creating the process took four years, with help from Tyrolit, Makino, and Bridgeport. The most important factors in Viper Grinding are the grinding consumables and the coolant process. The coolant had to have a high flow rate, function under high pressure, and handle fine filtration without impacting the efficiency of the machine.
The coolant is delivered at 900 psi, which prevents clogging. By filtering to remove particles with a diameter greater than 10 microns, the process avoids eroding the wheel’s cutting edges, meaning the wheels has a much greater lifespan.
This process is much faster than older methods, and allows for quicker completion of vital aerospace engine parts.
Aerospace manufacturing is a highly competitive industry, and rising pressure means that new production methods that can speed up manufacture are constantly being researched or improved.
Viper Grinding was so revolutionary because it allowed for multiple-axis machining. Since 2005, more than 160 Viper cells have been sold to aerospace companies around the world. The process is still important today, with new technology and production methods being integrated with the already existing method.
This level of speed doesn’t impact on the quality of the finished part, and quality is of paramount importance in aerospace.
With aerospace manufacturing costs rising, any method of production that cuts time, saves money, or provides a higher quality of product can’t be overlooked. Viper grinding provides a fast and effective way of getting parts, cutting down on the time it takes to assemble or repair a plane.
With automation becoming more and more commonplace in factories and production plants around the world, its likely that Viper grinding will soon be utilised by fully automated systems. With the integration of data analysis, manufacturing is becoming faster and more efficient across all sectors, not just aerospace.
But viper grinding will likely remain integral to the production process, even with the advent of additive manufacture. The speed, degree of control and precision, and the reduced level of consumption means the this process can still measure up under a cost/benefit analysis when compared to other methods.
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