Production of the unmanned Neuron craft begins in Sweden
Tjust Mekaniska in Västervik is a small company with approximately 50 employees and a turnover of about SEK 50 million. They have been commissioned by Saab to manufacture eight aluminium ribs making up the frame for the Neuron hull.
"We have a long-standing partnership and great confidence in the company. We've never manufactured such large machine parts in one piece and Tjust Mekaniska has invested in a large computer-controlled milling machine, a CNC machine, to cope with this project," says Peter Svensson, project manager for Neuron at the short-series production at Saab Aerostructures.
Tjust Mekaniska has a number of large Swedish industries as customers and they focus on short-series production and lego production.
"The Neuron project is a real challenge for us and we have invested a great deal to become involved. Our goal is to get the most demanding jobs so that we will evolve as a company," explains CEO Anders Wallén.
A newly constructed hall on the company's premises houses the large German CNC machine that covers almost the entire hall from floor to ceiling. Programmer Ola Johansson and operator Patrik Karlsson are alongside the machine.
"Much of it is new to us. All the drawings are 3D drawings, which we then process for programming," says Ola Johansson.
The piece of aluminium that sits in the machine is more than four metres long, one and a half metres wide and twelve centimetres thick.
" We have produced a special fixture weighing almost ten tonnes that holds the piece. In addition, the piece of aluminium weighs nearly two tonnes," explains Ola.
Patrik starts the machine and, in accordance with the programme, it mills the outline of the Neuron rib at a speed of 24,000 rpm. Cooling water and aluminium shavings flow through the machine and spectators can watch the production through the large windows.
"It beats our other machines by a country mile. It has just one speed of 12,000 rpm," says Christer Eresjö, head of sales and marketing at Tjust Mekaniska.
Assembly next autumn
There is not much left of the original material once the rib is finished. The resulting rib weighs approximately 40 kg from more than 1,800 kg. The excess aluminium flakes are pressed together and sold for recycling.
Several members of the Neuron project at Saab were present in Västervik to see the first rib being milled.
"It is great to see that we are underway and that it is going so well. The plan is to have most of the component manufactured parts ready in time for the summer holidays next year, in time for the hull assembly to begin," says Peter Svensson from Saab Aerostructures.
When it comes to the manufacture of parts for Neuron, some production is allocated to a number of subcontractors, such as Tjust Mekaniska, and the rest of the parts are manufactured at Saab in Linköping.
Facts about the Neuron project
Neuron is being jointly developed by France, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Greece and Switzerland. The participating aviation industries are Dassault, who are leading the programme, Saab, Alenia, EADS-CASA, HAI, RUAG and Thales. Saab Aerosystems are responsible for all Swedish industrial involvement. Several business units within Saab are subcontractors to Saab Aerosystems.
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