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GF Machining Opens Aerospace and Energy Center of Competence

Jim Lorincz
By Jim Lorincz Contributing Editor, SME Media
GF Machining’s Aerospace and Energy Center showcases  products produced by its precision machining technologies. At the center, the newly formed Turbine Group can call on GF Machining technologies, including wire, die sinking, and hole drilling EDM, Mikron five-axis e milling technology, Microlution micromachining, laser texturing, and Liechti Engineering airfoil machining capability.

GF Machining Solutions (GFMS) celebrated the grand opening of its new 21,000 ft²  (1950 m²) Aerospace and Energy Center of Competence in Huntersville, NC (near Charlotte), with a flourish and local dignitaries.

The new facility is a showcase for turnkey engineering of products for GFMS’s new Turbine Group, which combines advanced machining technology of its airfoil manufacturing arm, Liechti Engineering, with its traditional machining technologies.

Showcased in the facility are GF Machining’s traditional technologies, including wire, die sinking, and hole drilling EDM, high-speed and high-performance Mikron five-axis milling technology, laser texturing, and System 3R automation, and the more recently acquired Microlution five-axis micromachining product line. The competence center is home to the newly formed Turbine Group, which will be involved in design and planning for the manufacture of fan blades, metal leading edges, blisks, IRBs, diffusers, impellers and combustion rings.

“Our company vision is that GF Machining will be the trusted partner of the global precision machining industry during all phases of the life cycle of the parts,” said Pascal Boillat, president of GF Machining, which is part of the $4.2 billion Swiss Group. He outlined the ambitious plans for growth from a little over $900 million to more than $1 billion. “To support this rapid growth, we are building a 400,000 ft² (37,161 m²) facility in Biel to double our milling capability to increase Liechti’s manufacturing capacity to meet the strong order book coming from North America.

Traditional five-axis high-precision and high-performance machining capability for aerospace and medical applications is delivered by this Mikron Mill P 800 U ST machining center.

“The US market is growing very fast in aerospace three years after the acquisition of Liechti Engineering,” added Boillat. “Our goal and our 20/20 strategy is to grow the US market by another 20% by 2020. This new competence center demonstrates our commitment to the US market in our 20/20 Strategy and our intention to increase growth in aerospace and energy, as well as medical and ICT industries, among others.”

“Today we are celebrating our three year journey to build a new facility and combine our two locations, Liechti Engineering and our Southeast regional office, into one location that can service both the aerospace and energy with the Turbine Group and our customers in automotive, medical, information, and communications technology (ICT), and mold and die,” said Scott Fosdick, president and head of the Market Region Americas.

“This new Charlotte facility is the home to our newest Center of Competence, joining Boston, Charlotte, Irvin, and Chicago as showcases for milling, electrical discharge machining (EDM), high-speed and high-performance milling, laser texturing, and automation systems,” added Fosdick. “GF Machining Solution Centers of Competence are staffed by application experts who offer solutions to meet the demands of its precision manufacturing market segments, including aerospace, automotive, medical/dental, ICT/electronics and die/mold. Our operating headquarters is in Lincolnshire, IL, with state-of-the-art spare parts located in Woodridge, IL.”

The Turbine Group will lean heavily on the precision machining capability of Liechti Engineering’s five and six-axis machining centers, as well as GF Machining’s traditional machining capabilities.

According to Mike Costello, North America sales manager for Liechti, the Turbine Group, to be competitive, has to be the leading technology provider to the niche airfoil market servicing the aerospace, steam turbine markets for high pressure and low pressure blades with its five and six-axis machine tools. “The way we do that is by creating total partnerships with our customers by offering full turnkey capability for our advanced technology. This new Charlotte facility will be the focal point as a demonstration center where we can work with our customers to design and engineer machining solutions without them having to travel to Switzerland. In addition, this facility has a fully ITAR-compliant area for working on sensitive military applications.”

Liechti is a design engineering company, which outsources its manufacturing. “We are never going to be the least expensive solution, but we focus on making money for both our customers and us,” said Costello. “Our advantage in the Turbine Group is that we have all the advanced technologies of GF Machining, now centrally located in this center of competence, to draw from in shaping our airfoil machining solutions for our customers.”

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