Five-axis machining of composites

Founded in 2003 jointly by John Biddlecombe and Simon Kingdon-Butcher, Global Technologies Racing (GTR) is a specialist manufacturer of laminated carbon-fibre components for the UK motorsport sector, supplying most of the Formula One teams.
Over the past decade and a half, GTR has become so successful that the constantly rising demand on its machine shop in Easthampnett, West Sussex, meant it needed to expand into a second facility in nearby Bognor Regis at the beginning of 2018. Shortly after moving in, a pair of Hermle C400 machining centres was ordered from UK agent Kingsbury to boost the contract machinist’s capability for five-axis processing.

The first, with a coolant tank for ‘wet’ machining and an additional 50-pocket tool magazine to supplement the standard 38 cutters, was delivered in mid-2018. This machine was followed in February 2019 by a second model equipped with dust extraction for the ‘dry’ machining of composite materials without coolant. Both machines have a trunnion-mounted table that provides the fourth and fifth
CNC axes.
Kingdon-Butcher says: “Wherever possible we avoid the wet cutting of carbon fibre, but some of the components produced at our Fontwell factory have aluminium or titanium inserts within their structure, depending on the customer’s specifications. In those cases we have to cut in the presence of coolant to avoid the heat that would be generated if we were to machine metals without coolant. This ensures that the structural properties of the adjacent areas of composite are not affected.”
Tolerances down to ± 0.01 mm have to be held and, while this is commonplace when machining metals, on carbon fibre parts it is challenging. GTR’s success in this area is down to its long experience working with composites, coupled with the rigidity of the Hermle machines.
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Open house draws sales

Mills CNC’s recent ‘Another Giant Leap’ open house pulled in the crowds, resulting in the sale of eight machine tools and three collaborative robots, plus the generation of over 100 significant enquiries.

The total number of visitors attending the event, where 15 Doosan machine tools were exhibited, including four machines making their UK debuts, and where the company showcased its advanced industrial and collaborative robot solutions, exceeded 350 over the two days.
A constant theme throughout the event was automation and the way it can help component manufacturers improve their productivity.
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Largest-ever investment at Tayside Precision

Major growth in the oil and gas sector has seen a Scottish manufacturing specialist tap into the expertise of the Engineering Technology Group (ETG). Tayside Precision Tools Dundee, which is an expert in manufacturing complex parts in small volumes, recently invested in a new Quaser MV184 that has immediately unlocked additional capacity.

“The components we are milling require a very precise finish and the Quaser gives us the ability to produce repeatable accuracy faster than ever before,” explains John Welsh, Joint owner of Tayside Precision. “We’ve already secured a contract in the oil and gas sector to go straight on the machine.”
Tayside’s Quaser MV184 is the largest investment the firm has ever made and is the first time ETG has worked with the company.
Welsh says: “ETG were great, from understanding our milling requirements and identifying the machine, to helping us spec it out in the agreed timescale. I was also very impressed with the training, which meant we could quickly get the most out of the machine.”
Ross Milne, regional sales manager (Scotland) at ETG adds: “The MV184 is a great addition for specialist subcontractors like Tayside Precision Tools Dundee, with the large table area providing superior flexibility for work in progress. The space allows for varied work holding, so you can set up different parts on the table at the same time, which helps reduce set-up times.”
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£5m expansion at Protolabs

Protolabs, which claims to be the world’s fastest digital manufacturer of custom prototypes and low-volume production parts, has released investment on a £5m expansion plan at its European headquarters in Telford.

The company, which works with thousands of product designers and engineers across Europe, is building a bespoke 50,000 sq ft extension to its Halesfield facility. Protolabs’ new extension will house at least 50 additional CNC machines and a further 20 additional injection moulding presses. Over the course of the next 2 years, the investment will also create 60 skilled jobs.
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Compact and ergonomic machining centre

German machine-tool builder Spinner has introduced a new, vertical-spindle, three-axis machining centre with a generous working volume of 850 x 510 x 510 mm and a small footprint of 1.8 x 1.85 m. This ratio is achieved by adopting a patented method for protecting the saddle’s Y-axis guideway from swarf and coolant ingress using a single wiper system, eliminating the need for a telescopic cover. The depth of the machine is consequently shorter, leading to a 30% reduction in the area needed for installation.

The machine is available in the UK through sole sales and service agent Whitehouse Machine Tools, which points out three other notable attributes of the Spinner VC850. One is that the height with the spindle when raised to its maximum is just over 2.4 m, catering to users that have restricted headroom in their factory. A transport height of 2.3 m without significant disassembly helps access to buildings.
The second feature is that the X-axis guideway also has a single wiper for protection, allowing the table to move to the extremes, so automated loading and unloading from the sides is simplified. Thirdly, a short distance of 160 mm from table to operator leads to ergonomic use that is assisted further by a height-adjustable, swivelling control panel. The latest generation Siemens 840D sl CNC with 24” touchscreen is fitted, while availability of the Heidenhain TNC640 control is imminent.
Rapid traverse and maximum cutting feed rate are 40 m/min, contributing to high productivity, while table load is up to half a tonne.
There are two variants of spindle, a high-torque 12,000 rpm/18.2 kW SK40 or BT40 version as standard, or, optionally, an HSK63 alternative offering 18,000 rpm/18 kW.
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