As aircraft technology has evolved over the past century, the design and manufacture of the components that keep us in the air has become more and more intricate and involved. At best, component failure can leave a plane grounded; at worst, it can cost lives.
Hawker Pacific was established in 1978 to meet the service needs of the Australian aviation industry. Since then, the company has grown across the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East, with a list of clients that includes corporate, government, defence and private aviation ventures.
At the core of Hawker Pacific’s aircraft support service is the ability to manufacture custom components. Modifications, retrofits and special fit-outs require parts not readily available on the aftermarket, which is when Hawker’s world-class component manufacturing facilities take flight.
“The work we do requires extreme attention to detail,” says Stedler Barnard, sales and production coordinator at Hawker Pacific’s Brisbane facility, which produces a wide range of aircraft components.
“We create plane frames, landing gear assemblies, everything from large aluminium billets to tiny components.”
This work is largely handled by machines from South Korean manufacturer Doosan Machine Tools’ range of DNM vertical machining centres. The Brisbane factory’s first purchase was a DNM 650, a choice largely driven by the competitive price.
“That was a big factor in our choice of the 650, yes,” Barnard says.
“But then we discovered that the quality of the work done was second to none.”
The three-axis DNM 650, powered by the ever-reliable Fanuc spindle motor, was able to handle jobs with greater speed and accuracy than Barnard’s team was used to.
“The machine we’d had before was much slower, and the quality was nowhere near as good. We were really surprised by just how good the Doosan was.”
Armed with a powerful machine easily able to compete with its higher end competitors, Hawker Pacific’s manufacturing operations began to expand.
“We found we actually grew with the Doosan,” he says.
“There was no limit to what we could do with it. We never had to refuse a job because the machine wasn’t up to it.”
The DNM 650 was able to handle with ease the tight finishes and fine tolerances demanded by the industry. As a result, Hawker Pacific was being offered bigger jobs.
“Our work with the 650 led to a big OCR project for Airbus,” Barnard says.
“That’s really what got us going with Doosan, and production ramped up from there.”
The extra workload prompted the Hawker team to purchase two second generation DNM 5700 three-axis milling machines from Doosan’s exclusive Australian sales and service agent Hare & Forbes Machineryhouse.
“We have a good relationship with Hare & Forbes, they’re great at keeping in touch. Whenever we’ve got a question, they’re available,” Barnard says.
The DNM 5700 is used to make tool parts from high carbon, high chromium steel blocks. The main benefit of the 5700 is the 12000 rpm heavy-duty direct drive spindle, which meant that Barnard’s team could provide better quality finishes.
“The 5700s also have a much smaller footprint compared to the 650,” he says.
“But the 650’s size means it can handle larger jobs. It’s a good balance.”
The 5700s proved effective enough that the team ordered a third the following year.
“The 5700s could handle the larger quantity of work, and significantly decreased cycle times,” Barnard says.
“But we got a 20000 rpm spindle for the third machine, which allows for finer tooling and even better finishes.”
Currently, Doosan machines make up 90 per cent of Hawker Pacific’s Brisbane workshop lineup.
“Virtually our entire workload is handled by the Doosans,” Barnard says.
Every Doosan machine at the Hawker Pacific facility features the Fanuc CNC controller, which provides a uniform programming and control environment that makes it easy for operators to master multiple machines.
“We think it’s important to keep things uniform,” he says.
The power and quality provided by the Doosan machines brought Hawker Pacific to the attention of the Department of Defence. The two have since formed a solid working relationship that has helped Hawker Pacific continue to grow.
“As the business develops, we’ll invest in new machines,” Barnard says.
“We’ve looked at the five-axis Doosans, actually, and if the quality matches the three-axis machines we currently use it’ll be an easy choice to make.”
The superior quality and performance of the Doosan DNM range transformed Hawker Pacific’s operations, and allowed them to achieve the high standard of work for which they’re renowned.
“Doosan has been a part of our growth. We just have no issues with the work they produce, I couldn’t fault them,” Barnard says.
“We started with one mill and one lathe, and now we’ve got a quality lineup of machines that can handle whatever we throw at them.”
Hare & Forbes Machineryhouse