Winning the tooling race at Tridan

In 2007, Tridan Engineering made a strategic decision to target prestigious aerospace contracts and steer away from commercial, agricultural and power-generation subcontract machining. In the past five years, the Clacton-based company has invested heavily in infrastructure, accreditations and machine tools, which has certainly paid dividends in achieving its goals.

Celebrating its 50th year in business, the subcontractor has spent more than £2.5m in the past two years on new acquisitions, including two Mazak Variaxis i500 machines (as well as an i600 and an i700), a Quick Turn 300 plus a Quick Turn 200MSY. Other recent investments include a six-station Palletech automation system and an additional three machines on order from XYZ.
The investment in high-specification four and five-axis machine tools, and the ever-expanding variety of materials being machined, has prompted a strategic overview of Tridan’s cutting tool strategy. In the two years since deciding to overhaul its tooling strategy, the AS9100-certified company has reduced its cutting tool suppliers from 14 to just two. From the 14 vendors, it is Industrial Tooling Corporation (ITC) that is driving innovation and cost reductions, and standardising cutting tools.
Discussing the logic behind consolidating its cutting tool vendors, Tridan Engineering’s senior production engineer Peter Townsend says: “When it came to cutting tools, our shop floor had no consistency or standardisation, and shop floor staff would order new tools from one of our suppliers as and when they needed them. To consolidate our suppliers, we firstly wanted to eliminate a few of the smaller vendors that couldn’t support our diverse demands. Once we did this, we started 18 months of trials with many of the internationally recognised tooling brands.
“During this process, we were going beyond trialling one vendor against another based on the usual parameters of tool life, performance and cost reductions,” he continues. “We were looking at the complete package: the service and technical support; the rapport between our engineers and the tooling representative; the diversity of the product portfolio; and of course, performance, consistency and cost were always key parameters. In fact, the arrival of a twin-pallet machine and a six-station pallet system means that reliable performance and longevity for lights-out running has become more prevalent than ever.”

During the trial period, ITC was fast emerging as the front runner to win the solid-carbide round tooling business from Tridan. This preference emerged from the relationship between ITC’s technical sales engineer Gary Bambrick and the Tridan engineers and shop-floor machinists. However, with tooling manufactured in Tamworth, it was the rapid turnaround on standard and special tools that also impressed Tridan.
Says Townsend: “We manufacture families of aluminium frame racks for the aerospace industry in batches of 10-off every couple of weeks. With a significant amount of material removal, we applied the ITC 49G9 series of ripper end mills with through-coolant and a trochoidal strategy that was recommended by Gary. This immediately reduced the cycle time from 6 hours to less than 5 hours, a 20% reduction.
“With these racks there are a number of thin walls that needed machining and the tools were pushing against the wall, generating different wall thicknesses and wavy surface finishes,” he adds. “Gary worked closely with us and ITC’s Tamworth headquarters to change tool geometries, edge preparation and corner radii on a 10 mm diameter 3081 series end mill that was used for finishing the thin wall profiles. This not only resolved our technical issue, it demonstrated the expertise and the level of support from ITC.”
With the arrival of the six-station Palletech system, Tridan is achieving upwards of 140 hours of production every week on its latest Mazak machining centre. Manufacturing titanium alloy enclosures for the aerospace sector, the cell has been producing 50 parts per week with a cycle time close
to 3 hours each.
The philosophy of this cell is to maximise machine utilisation and, using ITC’s solid-carbide VariMill end mill tools, Tridan was attaining four days of tool life from each end mill. To extend tool life further, Bambrick suggested a diamond-coated end mill. The result extended tool life from four days to seven, a 40% improvement. With 90% of tools in the cell being supplied by ITC, Bambrick is currently investigating additional opportunities.
Another special application that was causing tremendous difficulty was a nose cone for the defence industry. The titanium cone had a roughing cycle time of 45 minutes that ITC reduced to 25 minutes with a five-fluted ripper, a significant saving on a batch of 100 parts.
Following internal rough machining, the cone requires a series of slots and features, and the limited reach inside the cone caused tool vibration that was impacting upon tool life. The previous end mills were wearing out rapidly through vibration, typically after machining just three parts.
“With the combination of the challenging aluminium alloy material and extended reach requirement, the vibration being created was ruining cutters,” says Townsend. “Added to this, the slots have a 0.03 mm tolerance that we struggled to hit because of the vibration. ITC developed a 2.8 mm diameter extra-long end mill on a 12 mm shank that instantly eradicated the vibration, and improved surface finish and tool life. The new tool ensured we were easily within tolerance, while tool life went from one tool for every three parts, to five tools for the full batch of 100 parts. This gave us consistency, reliability, conformity and it meant we didn’t have to keep changing tools and checking parts. We have a number of ITC tools that have been running for weeks on this family of parts.

“Following the benefits of ITC tools in our production cell and the proven success of the VariMill 4777 series, we trialled the same VariMill roughing tool on a chassis part for the defence sector manufactured from S154 hardened steel (321HB),” he continues. “We were using a high-feed indexable end mill from another supplier and were burning out 2-3 insert edges on each part. Although this sounds like a high burn-out rate, the cycle time was 12 hours per part for each of the 30 components. Gary once again recommended the 4777 series and it slashed the cycle time from 12 hours to 3, and we managed to complete a full batch of 30 parts with just two end mills. This was a 70% cycle time reduction and a 90% tool life extension. We cannot credit Gary and ITC highly enough for the quality of their service and products.”
The tooling strategy at Tridan is continually evolving to suit the ever increasing material diversity and lights-out production requirements. Tridan has selected its two primary vendors based upon indexable and solid-carbide tooling solutions with a number of small vendors still being a necessity for special applications.
Concluding on this point, Townsend says: “ITC has proven that its solid-carbide end mill and drilling lines can outperform everything we have trialled. But most importantly, the support from Gary Bambrick has been exemplary. Gary has not only instigated the introduction of new products, but also new strategies to enhance productivity.”
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Colchester appoints sales manager for south

Colchester Machine Tool Solutions has expanded its growing sales and support team by appointing Sean Luck as the company’s new southern area sales manager.

Luck will sell a full range of machine tools, including Colchester and Harrison lathes, and Clausing mills, drills, saws and grinders. Based out of Portsmouth, Luck is a time-served engineer, starting as a toolmaking apprentice in the subcontract industry and working his way up to works management. He now has around 25 years of both machine and cutting tool sales experience, and is very well known within the industry.
Paul Rushworth, sales director at Colchester Machine Tool Solutions, says: “We’ve known Sean for a number of years and he has huge experience of machine and cutting tools, which already includes a great knowledge of Colchester and Harrison lathes. As we continue to introduce innovations to the market, Sean’s recruitment underpins this continued expansion and further bolsters our UK sales, applications and service effort, supporting our customers’ needs for Colchester, Harrison and Clausing products.”
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Victor CNC releases latest Vturn

The existing Victor Vturn-26HD has long been pitched at manufacturers with a need for a mid-sized turning centre that delivers power, precision and reliability. Now, Victor CNC has added to this line with the arrival of the Vturn-S26.

Complementing the existing Vturn-26 HD and VT-A26CM, the new arrival has been re-engineered to provide a host of features that include the option of a servo-powered C axis to offer driven tooling stations. This new facility gives end users the option of the cost-effective two-axis Vturn-26HD workhorse, or the more flexible three-axis Vturn-S26.
As with all Victor CNC machine tools, the foundation for the Vturn-S26 is a large, sturdy single-piece slant-bed. The single-piece design eliminates the possibility of coolant leakage, while the 30° design lowers the centre of gravity to enhance rigidity and performance. In addition, the new configuration provides a large swing diameter that enables end users to load larger billets.
The performance of the Vturn-S26 is encapsulated in its 18/24 m/min rapid feed rates and thrust force of 1441 kg/f that reduces chip-to-chip times and elevates productivity. Further contributing to productivity levels is the 12-station live tooling turret. The BMT-65 turret has an indexing time of just 0.8 seconds, while the 4.5 kW motor delivers live tooling speeds of 4000 rpm with high levels of torque, rigidity and repeatability generated from Victor Taichung’s own turret configuration.
Despite its nimble and productive performance, the Vturn-S26 offers a spindle output of 22 kW with 574 Nm of torque, which permits heavy-duty cutting.
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Producing precision watch components

Founded in 2016, Geneva-based Badeco SA manufactures high-precision components for the watchmaking industry.

The company produces watch crowns, push-pieces, tubes, pinions, arbors, watch hands and parts for associated sectors, all on its in-house Tornos turning centres.
“We purchased two SwissNano CNC automatic lathes from Tornos as soon as we started our activities,” says managing director Stéphane Menoni. “Right from the start, they have proved to be particularly flexible and precise, while requiring minimum floor space.”
What was decisive, apart from the small footprint, was the flexibility of the SwissNano machines.
“Some high-precision components are manufactured in volumes up to 25,000 off, but it is also common practice to produce in small series or even perform one-off production,” says Menoni. “This means we can efficiently manufacture prototypes or spare parts.
“Since the space in our premises is restricted, we have installed the machines in an inverted position to gain additional space; this arrangement enables full access to the machining cell from the front,” he adds. “The machines are equipped with bar feeders and can be used for back machining as well as gear-cutting operations.”
Commissioning was quite easy, as Menoni affirms: “Just three days after the installation of the machines, the operator was fully familiar with set-up and operation. On the one hand, this was down to simplicity, and on the other it was the intuitive functions of the TISIS code editor. The latter is simply fantastic, since it allows program editing/transfer and tool selection, as well as machining process monitoring.”
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Top of the food chain

Dowson Food Machinery was established in Yorkshire in 1982 under the skilled entrepreneurship of founder John Murgatroyd.

He set about designing new products for slicing and bagging bread, and before long was supplying bespoke equipment and service support to many of the UK’s leading bakery groups, as well as to smaller independent and artisan bakers.
Now run by managing director Nick Lacey, the company exports across five continents and has machines installed at customers such as Warburtons and Hovis.
The success of the business meant that expansion was inevitable and, in 2015, it moved to a new 48,000 sq ft facility in Bradford, nearly three times the size of the original factory. Now employing 60 people and with the space for more equipment, new lines were designed to include products for speciality breads, flatbreads, rolls and tortillas.
The company’s main asset today is its in-house CNC machining capability.
“We offer more than our competitors,” explains James Carson, sales and marketing manager. “To have our own Haas machines on-site is not only economical, it gives us a level of control over quality and lead-time which we would never have by outsourcing.
“We can alter or modify a component to change the way a piece of equipment works, then test it straight away in-house.”
In 2017, Dowson decided to replace one of its lathes and, after careful research, invested in a Haas ST-15 turning centre with a 15 kW, 4,000 rpm spindle and 210 mm chuck. “You get a lot of bang for your buck,” says purchasing manager Andrew Sands. “We paid less for the ST-15 than we did for a lathe we bought 10 years ago, and it more than matches it for accuracy and reliability.”
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