Ceramicx takes the heat with Excetek EDMs

Ballydehob, Ireland-based Ceramicx, a designer and manufacturer of ceramic infrared heating elements and ovens for industrial and commercial applications, has installed an Excetek wire EDM and EDM hole drill from Warwick Machine Tools. The machines are being used to support the company’s tool-room operations.

Under the auspices of founder Frank Wilson, Ceramicx has gone from strength-to-strength. Around 99% of business comes from exporting its products to over 80 countries, including Germany, UK, USA, Russia, Turkey, India and China. During the past decade Ceramicx has been enjoying average annual growth levels of circa 15%.
In 2017, the company reached a new milestone with the completion of a major building expansion project. The extra space included a well-equipped tool room to provide day-to-day support for the ceramic mouldings required by the company.
“We produce the tooling needed for compacting ceramic powder to generate the various heat insulation and control parts required for our products, so a fully capable and self-sufficient tool room was a pragmatic decision,” says Wilson. “Some of my team visited the MACH 2018 exhibition and subsequently visited Warwick Machine Tools’ showroom in the Midlands.
“A demonstration of the compact Excetek V350 CNC wire EDM machine and the HD30Z EDM hole drilling machine provided my team with the confidence to recommend the investment required,” he adds.
In use, the Excetek EDM machines have proven reliable and robust. However, as Wilson points out, “while the machines are easy to use and maintain, it’s reassuring to know that we have support here in Ireland. Our remote location makes this a key consideration, along with the trust we have in Paul Barry, WMT’s local sales and service engineer.”
For further information www.warwickmachinetools.co.uk

Microdiamant appoints UK agent

Microdiamant has named Master Abrasives as its UK and Ireland representative for its range of diamond products, which are used for fine grinding, lapping and polishing applications.

Master Abrasives’ managing director Paul Batson says: “We identified diamond polishing products, such as diamond slurries and micron diamond powders, as an area which needed be added to our product range. At the same time, we were contacted by Microdiamant, who were looking for a UK partner. Microdiamant products are manufactured in Switzerland to high quality standards.”
For more than 60 years, Microdiamant has been continuously optimising and re-inventing micron diamond with customer needs as a constant focus. Microdiamant is a privately held company that distributes its products through a network of agents, with subsidiaries in approximately 20 countries across Europe, the USA and Asia. The company manufactures diamond products in all common diamond types – natural, monocrystalline, polycrystalline and nanocluster – and in sizes ranging from 18 nm up to 100 µm.
Microdiamant products available from Master Abrasives can be split into categories, the first being micron diamond powders for the superfinishing of hard materials. Micron diamond powders are offered in micron and sub-micron sizes, and in synthetic and natural diamond types.
In addition, Microdiamant offers diamond slurries for the lapping and polishing of hard materials, both in engineered and ready-to-use form. The ready-to-use diamond slurries combine precision graded micron diamond sizes with chemical formulations that are designed to offer high removal rates and surface quality. Microdiamant also provides liquid diamond GAFs, diamond compounds and grinding pads, composite polishing pads, and metallography products.
For further information www.master-abrasives.co.uk

XYZ LR machines prove convincing at Alken

Alken Engineering is a long-term user of XYZ Machine Tools’ ProtoTRAK mills, being an early adopter when the ProtoTRAK control was introduced to the UK in 1993. The company now has 10 XYZ ProtoTRAK mills and three XYZ ProTURN lathes on its capacity list, but for many years resisted purchasing any XYZ ‘full CNC’ machines; until now.

Alken Engineering, part of the four-company Alken Holdings Group, is a specialist machining and fabrication company that counts many blue-chip companies, such as Bentley Motors and Volvo, as customers, as well as working in the aerospace, power generation and general subcontract sectors. While the majority of its work involves the machining of steel and more exotic materials, Alken also gets involved in components manufactured from aluminium and nylon, and this work led to the purchase of its first XYZ LR (linear rail) machining centre.
“Even though the ProtoTRAK mills and lathes had provided flawless service, I hadn’t considered XYZ machining centres as I didn’t believe they could compete quality-wise,” says Paul Coverley, managing director. “However, when I had a demo of the new LR machines and the Siemens ShopMill control, my eyes were opened.
“In addition to the capability of the machines, the ShopMill control appealed as we get involved in machining from one-off to batch production, and the Siemens control is perfect for that,” he adds. “And, while I still needed to be persuaded about the full potential of the XYZ LR machines for heavier machining work, that would soon change.”
That persuasion came about when the Alken Group won a contract to machine a series of connector blocks which would be used in the construction of a bridge linking the mainland to Tintagel Castle, the fabled birthplace of King Arthur. These connectors are machined from solid blocks of Duplex stainless steel, with the finished parts measuring up to 460 x 237 x 237 mm, with slots that are 135 mm deep in places.

The work came to Alken after 10 other subcontractors had withdrawn from the contract due to the difficulty in machining these parts. As a result, Alken was faced with a tight deadline, as well as a capacity issue.
“We knew that any delay would put the bridge project back, which was unacceptable to the main contractor, American Bridge, and its customer, English Heritage,” explains Coverley. “However, our initial concern was that the parts could have been described as ‘un-machineable’. Following discussions with our customer, Underhill Engineering, changes were made to the design. Once those issues
were overcome, we were then faced with machining Duplex, including those slots.”
Initially, machining was carried out by two other companies within the Alken Group on what Coverley describes as ‘high-end’ machining centres: “These companies had what I thought was the experience and equipment to handle the work, but we found ourselves falling behind schedule as the machines struggled with the volume and complexity of the parts, so we had to bring work into Alken Engineering. The only capacity we had available was on our XYZ LR 500, 750 and 1000 machining centres. At this point there was still doubt in our mind that the XYZ LR VMC machines had the capability to handle materials such as Duplex, even though XYZ were telling us otherwise.”
With each of the connector blocks requiring between 70 and 80 hours of machining, there was a lot at stake, and Alken, along with assistance from XYZ Machine Tools and the tooling supplier, began to test the capability boundaries of the LR machines.
To produce the slots, the tooling involved an overhang of 4xD using an indexable insert cutter with 12 mm button inserts running at 140 m/min cutting speed and 0.3 mm/rev feed rate. Considering the material being cut, both the machines and tooling produced the quality and finish required.
“Once we got our collective heads around the machining of Duplex we haven’t looked back, and the XYZ LR machining centres are producing these parts better and quicker than those high-end machines we started with,” says Coverley. “As a result, we’ve got the project back on schedule and any doubts that I had about the capability of XYZ machining centres have disappeared. I’ve nothing but praise for the capability of these machines and the Siemens control.”

The XYZ LR range was introduced in 2017 and was the first full series of machining centres equipped with linear rail technology. XYZ had held off developing a linear rail machine as it did not believe that early systems were robust enough to meet its stringent quality standards. However, recent significant developments in linear rail technology saw these concerns eliminated and, as the example at Alken proves, these are highly capable machines with the ability to remove high volumes of material, even challenging metals such as Duplex stainless steel.
There are three machines in the LR range, these being the XYZ 500 LR, XYZ 750 LR and XYZ 1000 LR, with the number equating to the X-axis travel. All machines feature an 8000 rpm/13 kW spindle; 20 m/min traverse rates; and a 12-position carousel-type tool changer on the smallest machine, with a 20-position carousel (24 position arm-type optional) on the two larger variants. Also included in the XYZ range are the heavier duty, more powerful, HD VMCs. The XYZ 660 HD, XYZ 800HD and XYZ 1100 HD have boxway slides and are available with a Siemens or Heidenhain control.
For further information www.xyzmachinetools.com

£3m contract boost at Alucast

Delivering complex components for new automotive ‘light-weighting’ projects is reaping dividends for a Black Country supplier.

Alucast, which is one of the UK’s largest independent aluminium foundries, has secured over £3m of new contracts from carmakers keen to explore ways of reducing weight on future models.
Backed by support from Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, Black Country LEP and the Black Country Growth Deal, Alucast has opened additional facilities adjacent to its Wednesbury headquarters to cope with the expansion, giving the company an additional 7000 sq ft of dedicated machining space. In addition, management recently signed off the £400,000 acquisition of three five-axis CNC machines from the Engineering Technology Group (ETG), which will help Alucast supply final machined parts to customers.
For further information www.alucast.co.uk

Rimex opts for Timesavers hairline system

The latest addition to the machinery portfolio at Enfield-based Rimex – a specialist in the production of metal sheet finishes – particularly polished, embossed and coloured stainless steel sheet products, is a bespoke Timesavers 72 Series 1600-HL ‘hairline’ finishing system from Ellesco.

“Although many of our European customers prefer a satin finish on sheet for internal architectural features, ‘hairline’ is extremely popular in the Asian market,” says Nick Barnes, sales director at Rimex. “We have been able to supply hairline product in the past, but it wasn’t straightforward and we had to modify/reset existing machines, which added time and cost. Our investment in a bespoke machine from Ellesco and Timesavers to achieve that finish has streamlined the whole process.”
In order to deliver a hairline finish on the 72 Series 1600-HL, the abrasive belt moves at a slow speed, around 0.6-2 mm/min, while the material passes beneath. The effect is to create a continuous ‘scratch effect’ from one end of the sheet to the other, a finish that is seen as more aesthetically pleasing for internal architectural features such as elevator doors and internal walls.
Production director at Rimex, Richard Watson, says: “We are now focusing on creating a standard hairline finish, using a grit size that gives a softer look to the surface that meets all the standards for external cladding, where the roughness tolerance has to be less than 0.5 Ra.”
For further information www.ellesco.co.uk