Funding approved for manufacturing centre

The creation of a new centre in Northumberland for advanced manufacturing, the process industry and the engineering sector has moved a step closer, thanks to a multi-million pound investment.

Advance Northumberland, Northumberland County Council and the NELEP have agreed to support investment of £2.7m into Ashwood Business Park in Ashington. Ashwood Business Park is a NELEP Enterprise Zone, meaning that organisations locating there can benefit from 100% enhanced capital allowances. The 62-acre site is at the heart of one of the northeast’s strongest manufacturing clusters.
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Grinder for small OD tools

Vollmer, a specialist in tool grinders, has launched the VGrind 340S. Complementing the existing VGrind series of machines, the latest VGrind 340S has been specially developed for producing and re-sharpening small carbide tools with diameters from 0.3 to 12.7 mm.

Drills and milling cutters in this size range are in high demand in the automotive, electronics, connector and medical engineering sectors, where assembly space and components are becoming smaller and smaller. Automation options on the VGrind 340S allow tool manufacturers to use the machine for unmanned production around the clock.
The VGrind 340S is not just suitable for producing rotationally symmetric tools, but for re-sharpening; relying on the company’s tried-and-tested VGrind technology to achieve this functionality. VGrind see two vertical spindles made available for different grinding wheel sets, which makes it possible to reduce non-production time. Five harmonised CNC axes achieve interpolation, with short travel distances for the linear and rotary axes. These machine kinematics reduce idle times and the subsequent time required to machine workpieces.
As well as the rotary axes, the linear axes are also designed as direct drives (linear drives) for the first time. Unlike ball screws, these axes are non-contact drives and are therefore not subject to wear, increasing the service life, precision and longevity of the machine. The VGrind 340S also features a steady rest to ensure optimum tool concentricity during grinding, while a back rest is available as an option for longer drilling tools.
NUMROTOplus software enables a 3D simulation of the tool production process and makes it possible to carry out collision monitoring in advance. The height-adjustable and pivoting touchscreen control desk, as well as the generously dimensioned view of the machining space, make for ergonomic machine operation.
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Moving up the gears

The definition of quality has been described as an ongoing process of building and sustaining relationships by assessing, anticipating and fulfilling stated and/or implied needs.

Never has this definition been more appropriate than when applied to Aldershot-based FT Gearing Systems Ltd. In addition to establishing long-term relationships with its customers, this manufacturer of gear technology and high-precision components also enjoys enduring associations with a small number of carefully chosen machine-tool suppliers. At the top of the list is Studer, and the company’s UK agent, Advanced Grinding Supplies.
Continuous expansion at FT Gearing in recent years has led to regular investment in the Swiss-built machines, resulting in the company now operating 16 Studer CNC grinders – the largest collection owned by a single UK company.
Explaining the company’s loyalty to the Studer brand, managing director Graham Fitzgerald says: “Studer machines are able to consistently deliver levels of accuracy and repeatability that conventional grinding machines are unable to achieve. For instance, through the use of Studer technology we are able to accomplish sub-micron cylindricity results on 35mm diameter gear journals. We can also achieve surface finish of 0.08 µm and gear flatness to three light bands. To enable grinding to sub-micron tolerances, we recently installed our Studer CNC machines in a new temperature-controlled facility.
“To guarantee the highest possible levels of quality and productivity, we also use the best available grinding consumables and accessories,” he adds. “Therefore, as well as purchasing our Studer grinders from Advanced Grinding Supplies, we also rely on the company for items such as diamond dressing tools, precision centres, abrasives/grinding wheels, coolant filter media and air filtration systems.”
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Engis installs bore finisher

Engis UK has installed one of its latest SPM 6000 bore-finishing machines at the company’s Henley-on-Thames headquarters, where it will undertake process and tooling trials for customers and prospects across Europe.

Engis offers customers a well-equipped bore-finishing laboratory that provides technical support and expertise in developing bore geometries for applications in sectors which include automotive, hydraulics and aerospace, using materials such as ceramics, steels, cast iron and aluminium. The introduction of the SPM 6000 expands on these capabilities, particularly as the machine is supported by leading-edge metrology equipment with the ability to measure the cylindricity, roundness and straightness of bores to an accuracy of 0.1 µm.
This investment in the laboratory demonstrates Engis UK’s belief in working closely with customers to develop optimum solutions to their manufacturing challenges. Each process, including stock removal rates, bore geometry requirements and surface finish, is studied, step-by-step, to ensure all the objectives are met.
Among the most critical features in any bore-finishing system is fixture design. Using the latest machine, Engis technicians will be able to review each application and determine and test the best approach to fixture the part. Other key factors, such as simplicity, versatility and quick change-over, are also taken into consideration so that the entire process can be trialled.
The SPM 6000 is designed to process small to medium-sized components with bores up to 50 mm diameter. Although the machine at Engis UK is a six-spindle model, the SPM 6000 can also be configured with four, eight or 10 spindles.
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Projecting a quality image with Faro

Within the demanding marine sector, the accurate positioning, alignment and assembly of components, especially larger, cumbersome elements such as boat hulls, is a regular and often challenging requirement. Superyacht builder Sunseeker has eliminated the difficulties associated with these tasks following the recent purchase of two complementary, laser-based technologies from Faro UK. The Faro products have enabled Sunseeker to reduce its build times and further develop the company’s quality standards.

In order to remain at the technical cutting-edge of the boat-building industry, the Poole-based company’s management team continuously searches for new production and inspection aids. For example, given his extensive Indy-Car and Formula One design experience, Sunseeker’s composite development manager, Stuart Jones, was aware of the advantages that Faro’s laser-based technologies deliver across various classes of global motorsport. Therefore, he was confident that Faro products could provide Sunseeker with improved levels of speed and precision throughout all stages of each boat’s build. A successful on-site demonstration of a Faro laser tracker and a Faro laser projection system validated Jones’ opinion.
Put through their paces in the presence of a group of relevant Sunseeker staff, the Faro equipment was able to prove its accuracy, and ease and speed of use. As the demonstration verified the system’s ability to reduce boat build times, a rapid return on investment was calculated and an order was placed for a Faro Vantage E laser tracker, four Faro Tracer M laser projectors and Faro’s CAM2 software, all of which are now in daily use.
Stuart Jones explains the use of the company’s Faro Vantage laser tracker: “Having previously utilised conventional, time-consuming means of measurement and inspection, we’ve made a quantum leap by adopting the Faro Vantage. We’re now able to rapidly and accurately capture the 3D base geometry of, for example, our superyacht hulls and our large composite components, and ensure they adhere to the designs generated with the help of our in-house design and manufacturing software. Once obtained, this data is used by our four new Faro laser projectors to project a variety of key datums, templates and location positions on to our hulls, allowing the precise fitting of key components during build.
“Having successfully applied it to capturing the base geometry of hulls and large composite components, the ease of use, accuracy and flexibility of our Faro Vantage meant that within days of its delivery, we discovered a multitude of other uses,” continues Jones. “For instance, we found that, as it was a precise and effective co-ordinate measurement system, we could use it to accurately compare many other key components against their original software models. Also, because of its relatively low weight, portability and robust construction, we are now able to bring our Faro Vantage to our suppliers, to assist in problem identification and take the relevant rectification measures.

“As many of our parts have tight tolerances, our tracker routines allow us to accurately detect and quantify any deflection or change in the geometrical shape of components such as hulls that could cause later assembly issues. The use of the precise data gathered by our Vantage laser tracker means that we are able to take early corrective actions and avoid more problematic issues later in the build process.”
Suitable for large-scale 3D measurement applications, the Vantage enables users to maximise productivity and reduce inspection cycle times by 50-75%, says Faro. The device can be applied to assembly, alignment, part inspection, machine installation and reverse engineering tasks.
Jones continues by explaining Sunseeker’s purchase of the four Faro Tracer M laser projectors: “Having identified several key potential applications for Tracer M, an impressive practical demonstration of the laser projection system operating in these areas proved its precision and speed capabilities.
“We now use our Tracer M laser projectors to project precise, virtual templates that enable datums to be marked,” he adds. “This process allows the very accurate location of critical components such as bulkheads, longitudinal elements, stringers and engine beds. The benefit of the Faro projections are that we are able to quickly and accurately complete the ‘right-first-time’ positioning of these important features in all three dimensions. The precision we achieve in establishing an accurate, solid base at this stage of a boat’s build provides many benefits later in the process.
“In addition to the accuracy advantages that our Tracer M devices have delivered to build procedures, they have significantly reduced build times. The installation of wire looms located on our deck liners is a typical example of the time savings achieved. Previously, two people would have manually marked out the cable routes with a tape measure and plotted their routes with marker pens, returning later to then fit the looms in situ. Now, a Tracer M projects our wire loom design model on to the deck liner surface, and the cable mounts and looms are then fitted in one rapid, accurate procedure.
“The fitting of our liners, which had previously been a bottleneck in the build, was subsequently reduced by two days. Added to this, the use of our laser projectors has been instrumental in avoiding problems such as cable pinching during final assembly.”
Tracer M uses existing customer 3D CAD models to project a 0.5 mm wide laser line on to a 2D or 3D target surface or object, creating an accurate virtual template that enables the fast, precise positioning of components. The system covers an envelope of up to 15.2 x 15.2 m. For larger assemblies and use in space-constrained areas, multiple Tracer M projectors can be controlled from a single workstation to provide large-scale virtual templates within a single co-ordinate system.
Sunseeker’s manufacturing engineering manager Steve Efford concludes: “Our association with Faro has proven to be extremely productive. Not only have we been impressed with the efficiency and precision gains made through the use of Faro’s technology, we’ve also been impressed with the levels of service received from Faro UK’s staff. With their help we have been able to quickly develop a range of manufacturing methodologies that have improved our precision capabilities and reduced our build times. For instance, by using Faro’s large-range scanner we have found we can capture data from boat moulds or hulls and have a full colour map of points in under an hour.”
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