Sodick EDM offers staying power at Foremost

Foremost Specialist Products, a Derby-based subcontract manufacturer of precision engineered components, has invested in a new Sodick ALC600G CNC wire-erosion machine from Sodi-Tech EDM. Acquired to help the company take on the “complex and awkward parts that no else wants to tackle”, among the jobs being successfully accommodated by the machine are stainless steel tubular stem guides for power generator turbines.

“We won a contract for an awkward, tricky part and our existing EDM couldn’t offer four-axis cutting – and didn’t have enough memory to take on the job anyway,” explains the company’s engineering director Joe Walker. “This contract meant we would be tasked with producing a number of cross-holes in stainless steel stem guides for turbines used in power generators. The holes are angled in two planes are must be held to extremely tight tolerances.”
Although Foremost had never owned a Sodick EDM before, when Walker scrutinised the marketplace for a suitable machine capable of processing the stem guides and other complex parts, he was drawn to Sodi-Tech EDM.
“I really liked the feel of the Sodick ALC600G – such were its capabilities that it felt like we’d be moving from a small hatchback to a supercar,” he says. “We are finding the machine offers so many benefits – it is making particularly easy work of the stem guides. Some of the guides have six or eight holes, typically measuring from 1.3 to 3.0mm in diameter, but one of the latest has 28. The Sodick ALC600G gives us peace of mind that the work will be completed efficiently and accurately, every time. Moreover, I would say the new machine is up to 50% quicker on many jobs than the machine it replaced.”
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EDM specialist expands milling capacity

EDM subcontractor RST Engineering decided 20 years ago that a manual tool change Hurco Hawk, due to the ease of shop floor programming on its twin-screen control system, was the best CNC milling machine to take over from hand-operated mills for manufacturing copper electrodes, jigs and fixtures. A 10-minute demonstration on the Hurco stand at the MACH 1998 machine tool show was enough to convince RST’s management that the power and simplicity of the software made it an obvious choice for this type of work.

The machine proved so fit-for-purpose that RST had no hesitation in replacing it in 2002 with an automatic tool change, three-axis Hurco VM2 machining centre, which was equipped with a similar proprietary Ultimax twin-screen control as well as a 4th axis Nikken table.
Over the next decade, the subcontractor milled and drilled more and more of its customers’ components on the machine, work that it was previously having to put out to another firm, thereby saving money and enjoying more control over production scheduling and delivery lead times. The VM2 is now dedicated again to machining only electrodes, however, and is sited in the EDM shop alongside four wire erosion machines, the same number of die sinkers and a pair of EDM hole-drilling machines.
More recently, a £300,000 investment included the purchase of a CMM and a Hurco VMX60SRTi five-axis machining centre of B-axis spindle design and 1524 x 660 x 610 mm capacity. It joined a smaller five-axis Hurco VMX30Ui of swivelling trunnion design purchased two years earlier and a larger three-axis Hurco VM30i installed the year before to cope with a wider variety of component sizes.
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Neher has its finger on the VPulse

Ostrach-based family business Neher, which develops special tools for the international manufacturing industry, recently opted to invest in a VPulse 500 wire-erosion machine from Vollmer. Developed by the Biberach-based sharpening specialist, the Vollmer machine allows Neher to manufacture its PCD-tipped tools with a high surface finish.

“We manufacture customised diamond tools for our customers, which generally have complex geometries, particularly when it comes to combination tools such as milling cutters and reamers”, states Gerd Neher, managing director of the Neher Group. “For this we rely on erosion technology from Vollmer and recently decided to purchase the fully automated VPulse 500.”
Neher uses wire erosion for processing its PCD cutting edges. The process is suitable for tools such as contour cutters or stepped reamers that have complex geometries. With the Vollmer VPulse 500 wire-erosion machine, even the tiniest inner radii can be machined precisely. Typically, special tools require machining times that range from 30 minutes for simple reamers up to 20 hours for complex combination tools.
“Thanks to the fully automated VPulse 500 we can work in single-shift operation and still manufacture around the clock, and over the weekend”, states Anton Juric, application engineer at Neher. “For this, we use the external tool memory of the wire-erosion machine where we can store a total of 16 different tools.”
Neher is currently planning on purchasing another VPulse 500 to boost its targeted level of growth. In 2017, Neher concluded a joint venture with the American company Star SU from Michigan. With locations in the USA, Canada, Mexico and Brazil, the plan is to now use the new VPulse 500 on site in the USA.
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Top safety accreditation for Erodex

Erodex (UK) Ltd, which provides a range of EDM supplies such as EDM wire and wear parts, as well as graphites, graphite machining and more, has been awarded accreditation from Alcumus SafeContractor for achieving excellence in health and safety in the workplace.

Alcumus SafeContractor is a third-party accreditation scheme which recognises rigorous standards in health and safety management among contractors, and is used by thousands of organisations in the UK, including SMEs and FTSE 100 companies.
The company’s application for SafeContractor accreditation was driven by the need for a uniform standard across the business. SafeContractor accreditation will enhance the ability of Erodex to win new contracts, and its commitment to safety will be viewed positively by its insurers when the company liability policy is up for renewal.
Gemma Archibald, director of Alcumus SafeContractor says: “Major organisations simply cannot afford to run the risk of employing contractors who are not able to prove that they have sound health and safety policies in place. More companies need to understand the importance of adopting good risk management in the way that Erodex has done. The firm’s high standard has set an example which hopefully will be followed by other companies within the sector. SafeContractor plays a vital role in supporting our clients in meeting their compliance needs, while working with their contractors as they progress through the accreditation process.”
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Higher precision and less waste

Anca has made available its LaserPlus system on the company’s EDGe machine. The EDGe is used to erode PCD cutting tools, which in turn are used in the aerospace and automotive industries.

“The LaserPlus technology on our EDGe machine will help customers achieve much better accuracy and reduce waste,” says Anca product manager Duncan Thomson. “It ensures all tools in a batch stay within target tolerances, regardless of external influences such as wheel [electrode] wear or machine growth due to thermal variation. The result is improved tool consistency, quality and reduced scrap tools.”
Anca’s EDGe machine includes its proprietary eSpark generator for optimal PCD erosion results. This means that on the one-wheel spindle, two wheel packs support both erosion and grinding operations. The addition of the LaserPlus further enhances the machine’s capabilities for customers.
First introduced on its tool-grinding machines, the LaserPlus system allows newly ground tools to be automatically measured on the machine using a non-contact Blum laser system. Then if required, compensation is automatically applied to subsequent tools in the batch.
“For customers manufacturing PCD cutting tools, the laser technology provides real value due to the unique challenges involved with the process of electro-discharge grinding [EDG],” says Thomson. “Without touching the PCD cutting edge, LaserPlus is able to measure a cutting-tool feature before the final erosion pass. By doing this operation, the technology can identify any variation, which may, for example, be the result of thermal drift or wear on the electrode, from the nominal size and account for this in the final finishing pass. The result is that the finished tool geometry is guaranteed to be on size.”
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