in Vol. 5 - November Issue - Year 2004
Finding a better Way
Paul Rawlinson, General Manager R
Paul Rawlinson with his Technical Manager Tony Pugh at The Knowsley Centre of Excellence
Interview with Paul Rawlinson, General Manager of Rösler UK
MFN continues its interview series, this time with Paul Rawlinson who has been the General Manager of Rösler UK since 1991. We had the opportunity to talk with Paul about the company in general, new acquisitions and projects in the aerospace market.
(?) MFN: Can you tell us a little about the Rösler organisation?
(!) P.R.: Rösler are one of the worlds largest if not the largest family owned producer of abrasive surface finishing machines, together with related abrasives and water treatment systems. Head office and our main production facility is at Memmelsdorf in Germany which together with its thirteen worldwide branches employ over 1000 people.
Our machine build programme includes shot blasting, shot Peening, vibratory, and high energy finishing equipment.
The market that we operate in is wide and varied, and I am able to say with confidence and some pride that a high percentage of mass-produced components will at some stage in their production have been offered to a Rösler process.
Many of our on going research and development programmes have in recent years produced surface finishing processes that are widely used in the worlds high tech industries, with aerospace in particular benefiting from them.
Aero Engine and Air Frame Finishing on both new and re-build, is a large part of our involvement in aerospace, with our unique Keramo® process producing surface finishes on engine blades, rotors and fans, that are able to demonstrate engine performance improvements in terms of specific fuel consumption, and exhaust gas temperature margins, this being just one of the many innovative developments of recent years.
(?) MFN: Tell us about the Rösler branches outside Germany, are they just offices?
(!) P.R.: Quite definitely not. We do of course share common aims and objectives, with technical support and information flowing to and from the Centre. Each branch in the main however remains largely independent with their own budgets, test centres, sales/ support engineers and distribution. Our branch in the USA for instance manufactures for the American market, and the new Shanghai facility is being set up to cater for the swiftly expanding Chinese economy. Some of our branches have responsibility for leading a particular part of our business.
(?) MFN: What particular aspect of the business, is the responsibility of the UK?
(!) P.R.: Aerospace. We have in the UK a large aerospace industry, and because of this Rosler UK have over many years gained a lot of knowledge and experience through our working relationships with the UKs major engine manufacturers and repair centres, developing finishing processes and equipment for them. We have for instance recently been awarded a contract to supply surface finishing equipment for the new Rolls Royce facility at Inchinnan Scotland.
(?) MFN: Is your aerospace market new build only?
(!) P.R.: No not at all, in recent years a large part of our aerospace business has been in the re-build/refurbish markets, and we fully expect this to continue to grow. Our Keramo® super finishing which is widely used to surface finish static and revolving airfoils throughout an aero engine is used on both new and re-build sets.
(?) MFN: You mention growth in repair and maintenance, but are you also predicting a general growth in your aerospace business over the next few years?
(!) P.R.: Yes I am. The terrible tragedy of what has become known as 9/11 halted the natural growth in the industry for quite some time, it was almost like a train hitting the buffers. Travel dropped dramatically, some orders in the pipe line for new aircraft were cancelled, less flying hours meant a fall in maintenance requirements, all leading to an understandable fall in confidence within the industry.
The upturn however was relatively quick in coming, and we have, and will continue to benefit not only from this, but also from the challenge and opportunities that the world markets present to us. To gain maximum advantage from these evolving opportunities we continued during the lean years following 9/11 to strengthen our presence and services all over the world.
(?) MFN: I understand that Vapor Blast is now part of the Rösler organisation.
(!) P.R.: Yes that is correct. A tremendous and valuable acquisition, finalised early this year, and now playing an important part in our aerospace activities. In my opinion and my aerospace teams opinion, this acquisition was important, in that it means that we can now offer a “complete” surface finishing package. In our surface finishing activities we always try to offer our customers the “Complete Solution”, We feel this philosophy to be essential and a priority, -particular in the aerospace industries were quality and traceability are vital.
Vapor Blast have tremendous experience in the aerospace markets, particular in the French defence and commercial aircraft sectors where they have an enviable reputation for quality and innovation.
(?) MFN: Therefore you are now better equipped than ever to offer the complete solution?
(!) P.R.: Quite definitely. Aerospace customers are now able to discuss, develop, and purchase from one source. We can offer Vibratory Finishing, Shot Blasting, Wet Blasting, Shot Peening, Paint Stripping, Cleaning and Water Treatment. These are the basic processes, but in partnership with many of our customers worldwide many have been developed to provide special machines and processes for specific requirements. Take for instance paint stripping. This is an essential process that has to be carried out after a very specific number of flying hours on certain areas of air frame, rotor blades/ helicopter rotors, radons etc. in order that the underlying surfaces can be examined. A very skilled ,expensive, and time consuming operation when carried out manually or semi automatic. We are now able to offer robotic equipment for this process, that removes the paint layers without damaging the under surface, in a fraction of the time. Likewise peening operations can be robotised and monitored on many of our processes. We can now for instance offer our customers paint stripping peening and cleaning whereas in previous years we were perhaps limited to engine core part overhaul, and new manufacturing.
(?) MFN: You have mentioned your well known Keramo® process several times during the course of this interview, is its role still important to your overhaul activities in aerospace?
(!) P.R.: Yes it is still very important to our activities in aerospace, in fact development of this product is still on going and its full potential still to be realized.
(?) MFN: Has it changed a lot since it was first introduced?
(!) P.R.: Quite a lot. Keramo® has been available for quite some time, and was developed and used initially for super finishing products such as surgical instruments and implants, where surface finish is an important part of the manufacturing process. Its use in aerospace started in 1998 when Rolls Royce and British Airways were looking to improve the performance of the BA fleet of RB 211 G H engines.
We carried out a series of vibratory finishing trials on airfoils, and achieved the required single digit surface finishes whilst at the same time maintaining the critical dimensional tolerances across the chordal width and material thickness. In addition to finishing within desired tolerances improvements in engine EGT margins were also attributed to the Rösler Keramo® process which was approved by Rolls Royce for use during overhaul of RB 211 G&H engines.
(?) MFN: If blade finishing is a vibratory finishing process it must be easy to copy or find alternatives that produce similar results.
(!) P.R.: A good question and one that I am often asked. The success of Keramo® and later developments Super Keramo® 1 and then 2 is its ability to produce remarkably low surface reading finishes without straying outside critical tolerances. The secret of this lies in the construction of the silicon particles within the paste which have been designed to break down into smaller and smaller particles during the process. In the early stages of the process the high peaks on the blades will be reduced , whilst in the later stages the small silicon particles will work very gently on the surface bringing it to the desired level. Let me quote some very interesting figures to you. Typical metal losses on compressor blade and vane materials such as stainless, jethete and titanium after Keramo® super polishing, are less than 0.0003”(0.007 micron) across chordal width and material thickness as opposed to 0.003”-0.004”(0.076-0.1 microns) with other polishing processes that are on the market. These figures are not only important to the performance of the blade, but also consider this: the peened surface or compressive stress layer may be only 0.004” thick, this needs to be maintained and only Rösler Super Keramo guarantees to do so. We also now offer super Keramo 3. This is a powder rather than paste, some of our customers prefer it in this form, finding it easier to handle.
(?) MFN: Finely Mr. Rawlinson how do you see the future?
(!) P.R.: I feel confident about the future. There has been tremendous changes in manufacturing over the past few years which have brought new demands and challenges to the company. New high tech industries with aerospace in particular rightly demanding and expecting from us the best of quality and service. In my opinion it is not enough to have ISO accreditations or a string of approvals, as important as these are to us. A further ingredient is required, and for us here at Rösler it is contained within our company Logo, “Finding a Better Way” This is what we always strive for, and that is why I remain confident about our future.
May I finish by thanking you for giving me the opportunity to express a few of my thoughts and views through the pages of Metal Finishing News.
We at MFN would also like to thank Paul Rawlinson for this interview.
Rösler UK, Unity Grove, School Lane
Knowsley Business Park, Prescot, Merseyside
L34 9GT, UK
Tel. +44.151.482 0444