A Cutting-Edge Factory for the Aeronautical Sector

NTN-SNR “Take-off” project led to the extension and the modernization of the French production unit of Argonay, entirely dedicated to the production of bearings for the aeronautical sector. The new plant can meet quality and volume requirements of the orders generated by the newly signed contracts.

by Elena Magistretti

Announced last year during the International Air Show in Le Bourget, France, the investment project of 27 million euro in the NTN-SNR “Take off” program concerned the extension, for a total of 4.000 m2, and the modernization of the French production unit of Argonay, entirely dedicated to the production of bearings for the aeronautical sector. This new cutting-edge plant is already producing parts to meet orders placed under the major contracts signed for the supply of bearings for CFMI LEAP engines (joint-venture between GE and SNECMA and Safran Group) Pratt and Whitney GTF engines and Rolls Royce Trent 1000 and 7000 engines.

Tomorrow’s plant for today’s engines
With this project, NTN-SNR proposes a factory at the cutting-edge of technology and productivity, to meet the quality requirements and the volume of orders generated by the newly signed contracts. Almost 70% of the investments are dedicated to heat treatment machinery (casehardening, vacuum treatment and nitriding), grinding, complex machining, a new breaking technology for rollers production, metrology, automation of certain processes and non-destructive controls. The Lean method has been applied to the optimization of the ranges, the design of the lines and the workstations’ ergonomics with, for example, both physical and cognitive workstations’ evaluation during the design phase. This approach, together with advanced employees’ training, reduces by one quarter the throughput’s time of parts under production to support the increased production rates imposed by the new programs.
Another major aspect in satisfying the requirements of these markets is the complete traceability of the parts produced, ensured by a computer-driven MES. Finally, in order to guarantee the best mechanical stability of the parts during the production, the new building complies with strict thermal constraints, which do not authorize variations above 1°C per hour on an area of 3.800 m2.

New markets, new innovation programs
By signing the new contracts NTN-SNR has secured its long-standing relationship with Airbus Helicopters for the future, as it has been selected to develop the transmission bearings for the X6 helicopter, next substitute of the Super Puma. NTN-SNR also aims to the important market for maintenance and repair of LEAP engine bearings, implementing the processes that will enable it to obtain the customer certification. NTN-SNR has been involved in this market for 25 years through its work on the bearings for the CFM56 engine.

Uninterrupted investments in the aeronautical sector
NTN-SNR has always been heavily investing in innovation, particularly in the aeronautical sector. One of the new research axes is powder metallurgy. This new technology is very promising with a view to obtain steel capable of supporting more important loads with the same dimensions, thanks to greater hardness and improved fatigue resistance.
Recent investments concerned the purchase of robots, best in class machines for grinding, complex machining and heat treatment, implementation of a MES (Manufacturing Execution System) and the Lean method, and ergonomic workstations. Finally, the engineering excellence of NTN-SNR allows it to be associated with major aeronautical and space programs, such as the European Ariane V launcher and the CFM56 turbo-reactor.