Faced with a need for additional machining capacity, Minehead-based Superior Levels opted to install an XYZ SMX 5000 bed mill (now the RMX 5000) from XYZ Machine Tools.
“All of our machining is CNC and the design of the levels is inspired in part by my aerospace background, with the cut-outs – which are both for weight saving and practical reasons – resembling wing ribs,” states Bill Parfitt, who founded the company five years ago. “Calling the company Superior Levels meant we had a lot to live up to, but we concentrate on delivering the highest standards, not wanting to compete with the low-end plastic products found in DIY stores.”
As part of the quality drive, Superior Levels developed its own I-beam extrusion for the body of the level, which is then machined on the SMX 5000. The SMX 5000 gives Superior Levels the capacity to machine the longest products in its range at 2.4 m in length. Accuracy is key for the pockets that house the bubble vials, along with the weight-saving pockets. The latter will enable Superior Levels to access other product opportunities that will be advantageous to its customers around the world. The company currently exports to 21 countries as far afield as Australia, all of which has been achieved through word-of-mouth recommendations and customer reviews on social media.
“We chose XYZ Machine Tools for this latest machine for a number of reasons, but mainly for the ProtoTRAK control, which was a step-up from our existing control system,” explains Parfitt. “The control allows us to do exactly what we want and deliver the accuracy that we need, while the overall package was also excellent value for money. In addition, the training and support we can call on made it easy to deal with XYZ. The consistency and accuracy with which we can machine pockets has led to us developing a new accessory range that we will be launching soon.”
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Harwin has started production at its new manufacturing facilities in Portsmouth. Providing an additional 1200 sq m of factory floor, the new plant is enabling the company to quickly and significantly scale-up the production of its high reliability (Hi-Rel) connectors to meet market requirements. The total investment is £3.8m, £1m of which brings in state-of-the-art equipment, with the last few Industry 4.0-ready machines arriving over the coming 12 months.
Harwin has a policy of replacing production equipment every five years to keep up with the latest developments in machinery, thus maintaining reliability and operational effectiveness. In 2016, a new-build 3000 sq m factory was opened, while an R&D centre and apprentice training hub was set up in 2019. The latest round of investment also includes a new training area to support staff with ongoing professional development, encouraging advances in skills and job flexibility.
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ELE Advanced Technologies is a company with an aerospace pedigree that dates back to 1955 when Earby Light Engineers (ELE) was founded to manufacture compressor blades for Rolls-Royce. In the 65 years since, the Colne-based company has expanded its scope by targeting the aerospace, power generation and automotive sectors.
In the last decade, ELE Advanced Technologies has invested heavily in production equipment for the manufacture of IGT, aerospace and automotive power-generation parts, such as blades, vanes and a complete range of turbine components. Part of this investment has included the installation of three Kitamura machining centres, with the latest model arriving from Dugard at the start of April, during the COVID-19 lockdown. The Kitamura Mycenter HX500iG/630 is an identical model and specification to another that was installed in 2017.
ELE’s technical director David Dudley says: “The reason we bought the third machine is that the process from the other two Kitamuras is so repeatable. We wanted a machine that we could plug in and just start making components that will conform to specification perfectly.”
Alluding to the Mycenter HX500iG/630 and the qualities it possesses to machine components at ELE Advanced Technologies, he adds: “The parts we are making on the Kitamura machines are being installed on an IGT engine and are manufactured from exotic alloys like Nimonic. These components have very tight tolerances and the materials are very difficult to machine. With the Kitamura machines, you can load a part, machine it and then be confident that when you put it on the CMM everything will be 100% correct.”
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High forces must be applied to machine parts from forged steel. This material also tends to form longer pieces of swarf that are difficult to remove. For these reasons, Höhnhart, Austria-based Ferdinand Bernhofer GmbH machines forged steel workpieces on a two-spindle machine from Schwäbische Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH (SW).
Bernhofer began ambitiously expanding its range of services several years ago, with the expansion of installation-ready machining to a standard service being a top priority. Bernhofer therefore set out to find a manufacturer of suitable machine tools. Above all, the machine tools had to be sturdy and powerful enough to handle the three-shift machining of forged parts. The components being machined are combined in groups so the systems can be changed over or re-tooled as quickly and smoothly as possible. Another criterion was the most extensive automation possible, in order to conserve resources through 24/7 operation.
The first project was a family of parts with six variants made of quenched and tempered steel for motorcycle frames. Project goals included fully automatic machining and product swaps with no change-over. The BA 322 (a horizontal machining centre from SW with two synchronous spindles), was chosen to accomplish these ambitions.
“The mutual trust we have built on this foundation led us to choose SW again for the next project,” says managing director Ferdinand Bernhofer.
To explain, the new project involved machining particularly large drawbar eyes made from different variants of 42CrMo4. The task was made more difficult by the relatively large number of holes and fits that had to be machined, and was further complicated by the need for cooling lubricant to drill the holes. SW’s milling machine type BA 722 was purchased for this purpose. The larger machining centre, also with two spindles, was needed mainly because considerably greater quantities were to be removed through machining than for the motorcycle parts. Machining must remove up to 3 kg of material from each drawbar eye, which may weigh up to 18 kg, depending on the variant.
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The latest range of ONA’s die-sink EDM has a graphical interface with more intuitive and visually friendly menus.
In short, the QX Neo enables a 3D view of the entire machining process. As well as showing the part and letting the user manipulate it easily thanks to its tactile technology, the equipment includes a control that ONA says has never been seen before in die-sink EDM. This control makes it possible to view the part to be eroded on the screen, as well as the electrodes and their travels. As a result, it is possible to view the complete EDM process, select electrodes and even modify machining sequences quickly and easily with a simple touch before running the program.
The new range improves the control of the equipment and its usability through the optimisation of the HMI, drastically reducing the possibility of programming errors. Features include: a high-quality 24-inch screen; intuitive programming supported by graphics help; improved environment for programming and simulation; and graphic interaction throughout the process – digital programming from the solid to the part. Further functions include the verification of electrode position, travels, machining order and job list.
QX Neo also makes it possible to import the files directly from CADCAM, as well as to access and run the programs located in another computer.
The ONA Security Pack guarantees protection of the customer’s sensitive information. This system enables the creation of a machine administrator, the set-up of different access profiles, the limitation of file deletion or modification, the blocking of external accesses, and a log of power-on and working hours.
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