Airbus Helicopters, Safran, Framatome, Alstom. These big names in the industry can count on the skills of companies established in Nièvre. Their know-how applies to manufacturing processes and the machining of sometimes very complex parts. Markets of piids which contribute to their fame.
At MK Composites in Dornecy (photo Fred Lonjon)
This Dornecy company is one of the two entities of the Mekamitron group headquartered in Blois. In this city, there are around 45 employees and the Nivernais site employs around fifty.
The Dornecy unit was a family business created in the 1970s. It was then called UMI. It was bought in the mid-2010s by the Mekamitron group. Historically, it has always worked for the aeronautical sector. Today, 80% of its activity is for Airbus Helicopters (ex-Eurocopter), a merger, from 2014, of the French Aérospatiales and the German Deutsche Aerospace.
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“We are working on helicopter blades, as well as air vents and a few other fairing elements,” says David Muller, director of MK Composites in Dornecy. “These are critical parts that meet very strict specifications, manufacturing instructions, control and traceability”. Airbus manufactures the blades themselves at Le Bourget. The Nivernais company intervenes by manufacturing components that go into these blades which contain several elements, some of which are connected to the rotor of the machine. A sharp job that requires multiple operations, including the lamination of composite fabrics.
MK Composites also intervenes on the outside of these blades, in particular by working with silk screens which allow the marking of the blades. All these operations bring together multiple trades, from working with composite materials to silicone, including carboforming and cutting.
The Nivernais site also has a boilermaking activity to manufacture certain parts delivered to Airbus Helicopters and for in-house tools. And in terms of tools, it has even been manufacturing carbon tools for a few years now for Stelia Aerospace, a company that works for the Airbus A.350.
On the recruitment side, the company finds the profiles it needs. And if necessary, it trains internally. Coming to the Nièvre is perhaps not a first choice but, for example, a project manager, who worked in Paris, will join the company at the beginning of March. And as part of its diversification action, it hired a salesperson in November 2021.
As for the prospects, they are good. Dornecy has just won a boilermaking contract for Alstom. It concerns the refurbishment of Lyon tramway trains which are twenty years old and are therefore at their mid-life. “From time to time, this will result in a workload that will represent 3 to 5% of our turnover. “.
The objective is to double the turnover
With an additional 1,000 m² of workshop, bringing the total to around 3,000 m², the company “is sized to double its turnover in the next five years”, specifies David Muller. It is currently approximately 4.6 million euros. Doubling this figure could be accompanied by a doubling of the workforce. To maintain its performance and respond to developments in composite materials technologies, this year it is investing in a second autoclave furnace. It also launches investments for composite presses.
Aubert & Duval
Illustrative photo Stephanie Para
The Nivernais site, in Imphy, has two main markets: aeronautics and nuclear. For this, it has, in particular, reflow ovens which take up products manufactured in the group’s factories in Ancizes-Comps (Puy-de-Dôme). “This involves vacuum fusion which makes it possible to obtain the purest alloy possible”, specifies Gilles Gaudin, director of the Imphy site. The other very sharp production tool is an atomization tower. There is another in Les Ancizes-Comps. It makes it possible to obtain a casting of molten alloy which is then sprayed by a gas to transform it into powder. After going to the steel works, it comes back to Imphy in the form of bars to be machined. “At the end of this process, we produce elements for the engines of the Rafale, French Army fighter planes”, emphasizes Gille Gaudin. “The Aubert & Duval group is the only supplier for these engine parts, which are made by Safran. Recognition of its know-how in the field of super alloys. While the machine shop’s flagship product is one of the Rafale’s engine components, the Imphy site also manufactures engine shafts, again for Safran. These engines equip, in particular, most Airbus aircraft.
Another specific workshop is dedicated to the nuclear sector, especially for Framatome, but also for Valinox. “We manufacture anti-vibration bars which are installed in the large steam generators of these nuclear power plants”, explains Gilles Gaudin.
Very buoyant markets
These skills, given current events, offer very good prospects for the Imphy site in terms of production costs. “We are coming out of a difficult period linked to the health crisis. But the markets are once again very dynamic and buoyant, with Rafale sales, Airbus orders which are up sharply and mini-nuclear power plant construction projects. 2022 is therefore marked by a clear restart of our activity. »
Currently, the Nivernaise factory employs 170 people. “The recovery of the markets means that we are looking to recruit around ten people, particularly in the fields of machining, maintenance and quality control”, insists the director.
Aperam’s special alloys
Production at the Aperam metallurgical site in Imphy also has multiple customers for a wide variety of applications.
One of the specialties of Aperam’s Imphy site is to produce special steels for foreign customers. This is the case with Invar®, a metallurgical grade composed of 36% nickel and 64% iron. It is used in LNG carriers, ships that transport liquefied natural gas. “These are boats that measure more than 200 meters in length”, specifies Jean-Christophe Trontin, director of this Aperam factory in Imphy. “In recent years, this production has represented 20 to 30% of our activity”. These strips are delivered in rolls to the companies that manufacture these LNG carriers. “These customers are exclusively Asian”, specifies Jean-Christophe Trontin. “A strip is 500 millimeters wide, less than a millimeter thick and 45 meters long. They are flat against the bulkheads of the LNG carriers, which have a ceiling height of around 20 metres. »
This Invar® can have many other applications, with a few additions to its composition. This is the case with electronics, in particular in watches or mobile telephones, either directly or in the manufacture of these specific products.
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Special molds for large aircraft
Aeronautics is another destination of and alloy. Thus, large airliners of the Airbus or Bœing type have components made of composite materials. These are made in molds and when the piece cools it should be perfect. To do this, the molds must be non-deformable at high temperature, a property offered by the Invar® produced at Imphy by Aperam.
Danielson group. Bernard Delaporte’s company, in Magny-Cours, has been able to diversify, in particular for aeronautics and defence. “We work on complex foundry parts for the French group Safran, in prototypes and in series, for Airbus Helicopters, there also for parts in series when we have all the necessary qualifications and for Lieber Aerospace”, he specifies. . For this type of parts, followed by machining, the Nivernais company manages the manufacturing.
To respond to such specialized markets, Bernard Delaporte has invested in its production tool. This was possible thanks to the financial support of France Relance. “On a project worth 1 million 350,000 €, we obtained aid of 800,000 €”. An operation which is associated with a rise in power in terms of qualification with NADCAP certification. This is a North American accreditation program for aeronautical special processes. It has become an essential selection criterion for aeronautical programs, and an asset in supplier relations with their prime contractors and aeronautical equipment manufacturers.
Aisan Industry France. Based in Nevers, this company is associated with the Delage D12 hypercar project led by Laurent Tapie. The contract with Aisan Industry France was finalized in October 2021 and the neversoise company has already supplied four fuel supply modules for this 1,100 hp car, assembled in Magny-Cours. Only 30 copies will be produced. Its price: 2 million euros excluding taxes.
Despont Confection. The Varennes-Vauzelles company, headed by Nicolas Despont, took over a subcontracting contract for Airbus Helicopters about 9 months ago. “We are third-tier subcontractors,” says Nicolas Despont. If the volumes are not important, the market itself is. “We are working on technical fabrics for helicopter interiors or winch protection, for example, following very strict specifications. »