Fewer costs, increased productivity and new orders

A need to radically improve the component cleaning capabilities at a precision engineering company has resulted in significant savings, reduced production times and new orders; all thanks to a new MecWash industrial parts-washing system.

Nottinghamshire-based Swiftool Precision Engineering is an award-winning subcontract manufacturing business boasting a range of blue-chip customers in the aerospace, nuclear, marine and petrochemical sectors, among others.
With demanding quality standards for its precision-machined components, the company found that an existing basic spray-wash and small ultrasonic bench-washing system was not as thorough as the exacting requirements needed to meet growing demands from customers. Swiftool Precision duly turned to industrial parts-washing specialist MecWash for a solution.
“Quality is what Swiftool is all about,” states Andy Carnell, project manager at Swiftool. “The existing washing system was just not cleaning well enough. We needed to surpass the standards that not only we expect, but that our clients demand.
“The system was dated and, more importantly, unable to clean to the much smaller micron levels expected nowadays within the sectors we work in,” he continues. “Manufacturing high volumes of precision machined components in a range of materials also meant we needed to increase production time without losing quality.”
Working with the company, a MecWash MWX400 system was tested and configured, along with trials involving MecWash’s in-house laboratory and chemist to ensure the right wash chemicals were designed and matched, before the system was commissioned.
The MecWash MWX400 system provides ultrasonic wash and rinse, flood wash and rinse, mist rinse, spray wash and rinse, and hot air dry and vacuum dry. Contaminants needing to be removed from the manufactured components at Swiftool include neat oil, coolant and metal swarf.
The MWX400 system was commissioned into the manufacturing process and, in addition to significantly enhanced levels in cleanliness, production was also increased as a direct result.
“The MecWash system is far superior to what we had,” says Carnell. “It has saved so much time. It’s a lot quicker, more thorough and the results are far better.”

Swiftool has one of the most safety-critical environments, with the verified absence of foreign debris and contaminated material being vital. The company even has its own clean room certified to Rolls-Royce SABRe standard.
Carnell says the cycle times for cleaning both at the end and during the process have been improved significantly and “this has allowed us to reduce lead times and overall costs, thus attracting more business from our customers”.
Alan Atkinson of MecWash adds: “Swiftool works with companies that have the highest level of cleanliness requirements. We are talking particles sizes no larger than 500 µm. It’s vital there are no contaminants leaving the production process.
“Our systems provide the levels of cleanliness for such exacting results,” he adds. “They are designed to clean at much higher speeds with the same results, which means that production processes can also increase without compromise. This saves time and boosts productivity for our clients. And that’s through our team working with each customer to ensure the final commissioned system is optimised for their needs.”
Swiftool is one of many examples highlighting current confidence in the UK manufacturing supply chain. Indeed, this was further demonstrated at the MACH 2018 exhibition in April, with a surge of interest in MecWash technologies from new and existing customers.
With its range of aqueous parts-cleaning and degreasing systems on show at the UK’s main engineering-based manufacturing trade exhibition, MecWash managing director John Pattison says growth is not something just being talked about, it is happening, as demonstrated by the number and quality of leads generated at the event.
“MACH mirrored what we’ve witnessed over recent months from customers seeking to invest in new washing systems as their own orders rise,” he says. “The footfall on our stand wasn’t just to view our technology, it was to discuss specific investment projects from existing and new customers who are experiencing a surge in orders themselves and are looking to ramp up production.
“From smaller precision engineering suppliers through to the blue-chip giants within the automotive, aerospace and general engineering sectors, there were some very encouraging signs for the UK and global markets at MACH,” he adds.
Pattison also highlights research that found more than 40% of UK manufacturers expect growth in global trading conditions. The research by EEF and AIG also stated that nearly 70% of UK companies expect to increase productivity in 2018.

“MACH 2018 is one of the UK’s largest engineering-based manufacturing exhibitions, attracting thousands of representatives from key stakeholders, companies and investors,” says Pattison. “It is one of several key trade exhibitions in the UK, Europe and US that MecWash attends.
“Another factor in the investment coming through is the need for quality,” he concludes. “We believe the interest and leads generated at MACH highlight the high reputation of our aqueous washing systems.”
For further information www.mecwash.co.uk

Heavy-duty machining insight

Okuma Europe, represented in the UK by NCMT, recently welcomed international visitors to its Technical Centre East in Parndorf, Austria, to explore the large-parts cutting and milling capabilities of its double-column machining centres.

Highlights of the dedicated workshop included live demonstrations on an Okuma MCR-A5CII, as well as a look ahead at the future of Okuma’s double-column giants. Around 120 guests from eight European countries attended the event and seized the opportunity to engage in one-on-one discussions with Okuma experts.
For further information www.okuma.eu

Compact turn-mill machine for large parts

A turn-mill centre with an upper B-axis spindle having a ±150 mm Y axis and an optional lower BMT turret with the possibility of a ±40 mm Y axis and live tooling and has been introduced by DMG Mori for the bar machining of components up to 1.5 m long and 102 mm diameter.

The 675 mm X-axis travel of the CompactMaster direct-drive milling spindle, which is just 350 mm long, adds to the versatility of the new NTX 3000 second-generation multi-tasking centre. Also featured is a tool magazine with 38 stations (114 optional), tool-breakage monitoring and integral tool measurement.
DMG Mori’s NTX 3000 is capable of simultaneous five-axis CNC machining, yet occupies a footprint of just 16.5 sq m. The main spindle can produce rotational speeds up to 3000 rpm and offers a maximum torque of 1194 Nm. A counter-spindle is optional for machining on all six faces of a component, while a tailstock may also be specified.
A machine bed with roller guideways is designed to offer high process stability and flexibility. In addition, water cooling of the spindles, ballscrews and ball nuts ensures thermal stability in continuous operation, while magnetic-scale feedback of linear position to a resolution of 0.01 µm is a further option, as is a range of automated workpiece handling systems.
The NTX 3000 is equipped with the proprietary CELOS app-based control and user interface to either a Siemens or Fanuc CNC system. The 21”, multi-touch CELOS display works as an Industry 4.0 interface, providing the basis for cross-company networking. Various DMG Mori technology cycles are available, including ‘easy tool monitoring’, which monitors spindle load and axis thrust.
For further information www.dmgmori.com

Locomotive gets back up to steam

The workshops of the Llangollen Railway provide maintenance for the firm’s own rolling stock, as well as supporting other heritage railways around the UK and building brand new steam locomotives to order.

Like many such organisations, Llangollen Railway relies on donations, not only of cash and time, but also machine tools. However, when one particular project came up, the decision was taken to invest in new machinery in the form of an XYZ SLX 425 ProTurn lathe.
Llangollen Railway was tasked with the restoration of the iconic streamlined A4-class locomotive, Sir Nigel Gresley. In its life, the locomotive has had many overhauls, and the latest is taking place in full public view at the National Railway Museum in York by the Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Company Volunteers, except for its boiler, which has been stripped of its streamlining and transferred to Llangollen for refurbishment and re-certification. Part of the work involves replacing the boiler stays. As the boiler requires 296 of these stays of various lengths, with Whitworth threads at either end, an upgrade from manual turning was deemed wise.
The railway therefore took the decision to invest in an XYZ SLX 425 ProTurn lathe with 1.25 m between centres; a selection that is paying dividends as each boiler stay can now be machined complete in half the time that they previously took on a manual lathe.
“The ProtoTrak control makes life very easy as it guides you through everything; the ‘Traking’ feature is very handy and the ‘Do-One’ canned cycle feature in the control is extremely useful for machining features such as radii and chamfers,” says machinist Michael O’Toole.
For further information www.xyzmachinetools.com

Lead-time reduced for plastic components

The ability to change its recently installed Citizen Cincom A20-VII sliding-head turn-mill centre into a non-guide bush variant for applications on plastic components and shorter length parts, while retaining the guide bush assembly for longer parts, has enabled Colpa Precision Engineering to cut weeks from its lead time with significantly reduced material costs.

Says general manager Martin Branch: “The removable guide bush feature on the Cincom A20 has increased our competitiveness in a tight market as we no longer have to order pre-ground bar for plastic components, which has not only reduced material cost but saved four weeks on our lead time to customers and enabled us to pick-up new business.”
Branch also confirms that by replacing an ageing Citizen Cincom C16 with the new A20, Colpa is slightly reducing cycle times, but more important to customers, improving productivity, consistency, uptime and machining accuracy, which is again helping to lower lead times.
Recent investment has been consistent at Colpa with some £560,000 spent over the past three years. In addition to machining centres and fixed-head lathes, six Citizen sliding-head machines are installed at the Watford site. The recent Cincom A20-VII installation is now mainly used for plastic parts and some aluminium, to which Branch says: “We ran our first production batch with the guide bush installed and then removed it in less than 45 minutes. So
far we have never used it again due to the advantages that we gained without it on smaller parts.”
For further information www.citizenmachinery.co.uk