A wholly-owned subsidiary of TATA Motors Ltd, TAL Manufacturing Solutions Ltd (TAL) was established in Pune, India, in 2000, as a pioneer provider of turnkey manufacturing solutions. For over 40 years, TAL has had various experiences in designing and building machine tools, engaging in material-handling systems, test rigs, painting systems, assembly and process lines, robotics solutions, and fixtures across industries.
TAL’s main operations are strategically segregated by industry focus to provide top-line support to its customers. TAL has four business units, of which one is solely dedicated to the aerospace industry. This aerospace business unit maintains a strong focus in the total manufacturing process of precision body components and assemblies for aerospace structures. Catering to the needs of commercial and business partners, the aerospace division is fully supported with a state-of-the-art facility in Nagpur, India, where cutting edge solutions are developed.
The TAL aerospace division, in line with its business unit motto, strives to uphold its reputation as being the most reliable provider in the development, manufacturing, and assembly of aerospace components and structures. The division is always on the lookout for more efficient methods to improve existing processes. “We believe that we can further add value to our customers by continuously improving on our manufacturing processes and standards,” Mr. Bhupendra Darne, Quality Engineer, TAL Manufacturing Solutions Ltd – Aerospace Business Unit, shared. “By doing so, we also gain competitive advantages which can benefit TAL in the long run.”
In an ideal world, every manufacturing component would be perfectly crafted and tedious measurement checks would not be necessary. However, with safety issues and stringent regulations to abide by in the air travel market, measurement requirements are very much a part of the manufacturing process, and companies like TAL take active steps to ensure that inspections are properly executed.
In the aerospace industry where safety concerns always come under the spotlight, measurement requirements must be thorough to ensure zero deviation from computer-aided design (CAD) data. Failure to meet these standards can delay approval on aircraft components, and ultimately incur losses on time as well as investment costs. Measuring systems that can provide accurate measurements are therefore considered vital support equipment in the industry.
Moreover, aircraft components can range from 2 to 30 meters, and it can be especially challenging to measure large component parts where run-of-the-mill coordinate measurement machines (CMM) may be unable to capture the data accurately. “The components that we measure can come in different sizes and there are times when we have to carry the larger parts to the machine for measurement,” Mr. Darne added. “It can be straining and time consuming for us, especially when we have complex parts that can be difficult to measure using our existing CMM.”[blockquote style=”1″]“Since we purchased the FaroArm and FARO Laser Tracker ION, we have achieved up to 70% time-savings,” Mr. Darne shared. “In the past, we would take up to 2-3 days to complete component measurements. However, using FARO devices, we have narrowed it down to just 1.5 days. TAL continuously welcomes efficient methods for improvement. When the need arises again, FARO will definitely be on the top of our list for consideration.” [/blockquote]
The Journey Towards Improvement
Within the aerospace division, TAL employees were already using CMMs. However, it was an older device that offered a smaller measuring range and lower levels of accuracy. Influenced by its customers’ positive reviews on FARO solutions, TAL first tried the FaroArm through a lease in 2006 and subsequently went on to rent the unit on numerous occasions. With a measuring range of 10 feet, the FaroArm was capable of offering high accuracy measurement, including fixture alignment, calibration, and dimensional calculations.
The FaroArm soon became an invaluable tool to TAL, and a decision was finally made to purchase the device later that same year. The main factor fueling the purchase then was because the equipment rental process proved to be too time consuming for the team, with tedious paperwork that came with each instance. When the team at TAL realized that the portable CMM was required on a regular basis, it became evident that an asset investment had become a necessity, not just an option. In this way, the operators were able to freely access the unit whenever a measurement need arose.
“The FaroArm helped us greatly in our production process,” said Mr. Darne. “This was especially so on the sub-assembly level, where the FaroArm provides us with high accuracy when conducting inspection for small components. The level of accuracy required in our line of work is nearly 120 microns, and the device complied with our requirements.” Mr. Darne recalled. Won over by the positive experience, TAL went on to purchase its second unit of FaroArm in 2010. With an extended measuring range of up to 12 feet, this device performs similar functions as the first unit, allowing the team at TAL to measure parts over a larger volume.
Widely used in the aerospace industry to carry out a series of activities such as first article inspection, the FaroArm is capable of detecting even the slightest deviation to ensure closest conformity to intended specifications. As TAL’s business expanded, the need for a device with an even larger measuring range to carry out aircraft fixture calibration and alignment processes surfaced.
“As we had a positive experience with FARO, we decided to further extend our capabilities by investing in two sets of FARO Laser Tracker ION in 2011,” Mr. Darne acknowledged. “Right from the start, the Laser Trackers were clearly valuable additions to TAL’s existing operations, providing us with outstanding accuracy levels on major inspections in the post-production stages. With this device, we are assured of precision even with bigger components.”
A state-of-the-art interferometer (IFM) based measurement system, the Laser Tracker ION is capable of providing high-accuracy machine calibration and in-line measurements. Due to their line of work, TAL uses both devices on a weekly basis, each usage spanning over 8 hours and can extend up to 16 hours for critical components measurement. The remarkable features have helped TAL in easing time constraints and made significant differences in total time-savings.
At the fundamental level, TAL improved measurement accuracy and efficiency with four FARO devices under their belt. On top of that, however, the company also enjoyed several benefits in its production workflow, such as the devices’ portability, ease of use, as well as versatility.
The team found both the FaroArm and Laser Tracker ION easy to operate, which meant a gradual learning curve even for any inexperienced workers. Moreover, the portability of the FaroArm and Laser Tracker ION greatly reduced the need for manual labor as the device can now be easily transported to the shop floor, instead of having to move large, bulky components to a climate-controlled measuring room. In addition, these FARO devices required only a short set-up time, further sweetening the whole FARO experience for TAL.