Paragon installs large FIDIA composites milling machine

The double-gantry, 5-axis milling machine is said to be the largest FIDIA unit in North America.

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Paragon D&E (Grand Rapids, Mich., USA) reports that it has installed the largest double-gantry 5-axis FIDIA milling machine on the continent, a machine about the size and length of a car wash that can cut the entire fuselage of an F-22 Raptor fighter jet within a hair's width of tolerance.

"Our new FIDIA milling machine represents a significant leap forward for Paragon D&E as we supply industries that demand highly precise molds and machined parts that are also very large," said David Muir, president of Paragon D&E, which serves the aerospace, alternative energy, automotive, heavy truck, nuclear and other industries.

In addition to cutting large three-dimensional shapes from aluminum, steel, composite, or other materials, the FIDIA can be fitted with sensors so that it can precisely measure the shape of very large objects, allowing Paragon D&E to help customers reverse engineer existing parts such as helicopter cockpits and airplane tail structures to produce replacements.

Purchased and installed a cost of $3.5 million, the machine has a 60-ft by 12-ft (18.3m by 3.7m) table with virtually unlimited weight capacity. As a five-axis machine, the FIDIA precisely controls the position of cutters as they move along the length, width and depth of the material, but also as the machining head is rotated along two additional axis. The machine was built by FIDIA SpA (San Mauro Torinese, Italy).

"The capabilities of the FIDIA will allow us to fabricate very large parts and molds with very sophisticated shapes," said Muir. "This is particularly important in the aerospace, automotive and any other industries that require curved surfaces to accommodate the aerodynamics of their products."