Innovation and collaborative, synchronized program management for new programs
Armor Meca is a small- to medium-sized business with expertise in complex part machining and subsystem assembly. The company’s expertise, recognized by major clients (Airbus, Stelia, Safran, Thales, MBDA, and others) is primarily active in highly demanding sectors such as the aeronautics, defense, energy, naval and medical fields. Armor Meca’s robotics team and additive business are continually developing new industrial solutions to constantly exceed clients’ expectations.
A flagship of the French aeronautical industry, Armor Meca specializes in high-precision machining and subsystem assembly. Founded in 1965, this family business benefits from superior expertise recognized by France’s leading contractors (Airbus, Stelia, Safran, Thales, MBDA, among others) with which it has established trusted relationships for more than 50 years. A longstanding aeronautics player, the Brittany-based small to medium enterprise has also successfully positioned itself through repeated transformations in the very demanding defense, energy, naval and medical sectors. The company’s motto is: “Developing a new human, responsible and effective industrial model to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
In order to fulfill this mission, Armor Meca places innovation at the core of its strategy: “Technological innovations, with new products and processes such as additive metal manufacturing; social innovations, by implementing ambitious training plans and eco-responsible initiatives to allow each employee to develop; and environmental innovations with the recycling of cutting oils or the independent production of energy by 2020,” explains Sébastien Colas, director of Armor Meca.
When Colas took over the company’s helm from his father in 2008, he decided, in what was a difficult economic context for the aeronautical industry, to produce more complex parts with higher added value, and to expand the company’s range to include new metals such as titanium. Fully aware of the technological issues, he sought to modernize his production processes and methods, and employ software solutions to underpin his development strategy: these were the first steps towards digitalization.
The company has been using Siemens Digital Industries Software solutions since 2008. Back then, Armor Meca was equipped with the TopSolid CAM solution. Colas turned to Janus Engineering, a Siemens partner and the leading reseller of NX™ software for computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) in France, to help him define and implement a global CAD/CAM solution on a par with his ambitions. “Armor Meca was using increasingly high-performance 5-axis machining tools that required a state-of-the-art CAM system to achieve gains in terms of time, security and programming. The company acquired its first three NX CAM licenses in 2008,” recalls Nicolas Simon, director of Janus Engineering.
Today, Armor Meca operates a modern manufacturing facility comprising 70 machines, 75 percent of which are 5-axis. Complex aluminum parts are machined “in the open” to minimize surface defects, and to reduce cycle time. This is a delicate operation that requires advanced know-how in terms of CAM programming, one that few companies are capable of performing. Three robot cells control the machines: from the loading of the stock and the pallets and setup of the cutting tools to the three-dimensional control of machined parts.
Production takes place in five buildings, respectively for the storage of raw materials, machining of aluminum parts, machining of hard materials, metrology, and additive manufacturing, all on a production surface of some 10,000 square meters.
“Our teams innovate on a daily basis to invent the factory of the future,” says Colas. “This implies an increasingly high proportion of automated production methods, which will soon represent 60 percent of our machine base. With Siemens software solutions, we effectively automate our production methods by implementing digital twins of our machine tools, and optimizing our production flows.”
Armor Meca owns 11 NX CAM licenses and five NX CAD licenses dedicated to preparing models for computer-aided manufacturing or co-design. Cédric, head of the Methods and Industrialization division, oversees the deployment of the software. He explains: “We work from CAM files provided by our customers. We particularly appreciate the interoperability of NX and its highly visual machining simulation features, which are a great help in our daily work. NX CAM offers an integrated postprocessing system that directly generates the machine’s ISO code, without having to use a third-party postprocessor. This is a major asset.”
Armor Meca recently deployed Teamcenter® Manufacturing software to replace its file management system with a database management system: this solution was installed on 60 workstations to provide centralized, shared access to CAD/CAM data. The company’s designers, engineers and machine programmers now work in close collaboration based on a single source of information. The benefits were immediate: smoother communication between the various departments, easier handling of conflicts between the various data versions, and better traceability of changes.
Armor Meca will very soon be deploying SIMATIC IT® Preactor™ to optimize production line workflows and the loading of raw materials in the storage workshop. The use of NX Machining Knowledge Editor should also serve to standardize and accelerate programming tasks through increased re-use, and thus reduce programming times. To date, the benefits reaped from the deployment of Siemens software solutions are numerous and tangible: reduction of NC programming and machining times, improved surface finish, precision and quality of parts, shorter production times, fewer errors, and optimized use of manufacturing resources.
“Janus Engineering has supported us in the deployment and optimization of our environment for the past 10 years,” Cédric concludes. “They are a trusted partner offering extensive Siemens software expertise, as well as excellent understanding of both industrial processes and our businesses.”
Armor Meca is above all a human adventure: “In 1965, my father started out as a fitter-assembler with AcMoc, Armor Meca’s ancestor,” recalls Colas with a certain emotion. “He climbed the ladder, became workshop foreman, then bought out the company in 1987. It is the same enthusiasm that has driven us ever since. My objective is to make technology benefit humans and their social fulfillment.”
To this end, the company has developed an ambitious training program to allow its employees to develop within their lines of business. David has been an in-house training instructor with Armor Meca for three years. He has devised a training program tailored to the methods and tools in place at Armor Meca: “When new hires or interns arrive, we provide them with one full month’s training. This is a definite advantage for their integration in the company and for their future career development.”
With its ongoing investment strategy, Armor Meca provides its customers with an innovative industrial tool at the cutting edge of technology. Over the past ten years, the company has increased the size of its installation fourfold, and negotiated the digital transition with resounding success. It now plans to build a new building that will double its production surface by 2020, and is pursuing its international development effort.
With the support of Janus Engineering, it will continue to deploy Teamcenter Manufacturing and Simatic IT Preactor. It additionally plans to deploy Siemens coordinate measuring machine (CMM) solutions.
In 2014, Armor Meca acquired a 70 percent stake in SLS France, a company specialized in the computer-aided design and manufacturing of medical and dental prostheses. It intends to step up its additive metal manufacturing activity, which is continuously progressing, to offer innovative manufacturing concepts. “This is both an area of diversification and a source of inspiration for new activities and new products,” affirms Colas. “One of the company’s constants is its ability to evolve.”
The walls of the company’s workshops display the following messages in large letters:
“They did not know it was impossible, so they did it!” Mark Twain.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein.