Houghton relocates

Houghton International has officially moved premises and is now fully operational at the Ronnie Mitten Works site on Shields Road in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The company has consolidated its existing sites into 120,000 sq ft of engineering space at the CA Parsons Works in Heaton, the birthplace of the steam turbine (alongside Houghton’s existing pump repair facility). The new site will enable the company to be more efficient and flexible, while simultaneously creating significant space for future growth. Houghton has retained its existing large machine facility on Shields Road, which is adjacent to its new workshop.

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EDMs boost tool-making capability

The Teisnach facility of Rohde & Schwarz, a specialist in electromechanical assemblies, has installed two Mitsubishi Electric EDM machines from the MP Connect series to help boost the precision production activities of the plant’s tool-making department. Covering more than 74,000 sq m, the Teisnach plant is home to 1850 skilled workers and is considered the tool-making centre for the group.

Says Andreas Bauer, head of toolmaking: “To maintain a high degree of flexibility, we’re constantly reorganising our operations. This is also a reason why we keep tool making here a little separate and autonomous.”

Five wire EDM machines are in operation in the tool shop at Teisnach, mainly in the production of punching, bending and extrusion tools. The two new Mitsubishi Electric MP1200 Connect and MP2400 Connect machines are used mainly for stamping and bending tools.

“Using these two precision machines we can operate with high process security, while they also give us the required flexibility,” says Bauer. “Last year we decided to make a change in our wire EDM machines. We took a close look at the main suppliers and drew up a requirements profile with our entire team.”

All the pros and cons – as well as the sustainability issues – were examined. The price-performance ratio was also a crucial factor. Rohde & Schwarz paid visits to users and compared the technical data until the company was convinced that Mitsubishi would be able to supply the market’s best machines.

“We drafted our 2027 tool-making strategy back in 2017,” Bauer reports. “Last year we took the first big step and invested around €2m, among other things in the two Mitsubishi systems. In doing so, we gave new impetus to micro-erosion, micro-milling and micro-drilling.”

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Small cost, big improvement

Following a free R&D intervention by the University of Sheffield’s AMRC, a precision engineering SME has been shown how an investment of just £20 could bring about a huge improvement in its manufacturing process and unlock significant savings. The AMRC was able to show management at Chesterfield-based subcontractor CBE+ that with a new tool holder, which would cost £60 rather than the £40 one currently in use, it could attain a 10-15% improvement in tool life. Funds from the HVM Catapult paid for the project as part of a commitment to working with SME manufacturers.

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Online customer training

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and associated protective measures, almost all planned customer training courses at Walter have had to be cancelled.

The company, which specialises in grinding and erosion machines for cutting-tool manufacture, is now reacting with an alternative programme that offers some of its customer training courses online as interactive live webinars. In the past weeks, the first online training day took place – a customer-specific basic and advanced course on the principles of program creation in Walter’s measuring software.

The trainer, equipped with a headset and an additional camera, stands in the machine demonstration room at Walter’s headquarters in Tübingen and speaks into a laptop. On the other side, customer employees are sitting in a separate room, all looking into their laptops at the same time. This is how some customer training courses at Walter currently look.

The participants of this particular course learn the exact procedure to measure a tool correctly with the software. In the basic training course, participants gain machine knowledge that they can use to expand their skills in practice day-by-day, while the advanced training course is aimed at participants who already have initial experience or some knowledge. In both courses, Walter teaches the customer efficient program creation in order to reduce unnecessary programming and program run times.

Walter’s online offer is an efficient supplement that the company will expand in the future. Online training from Walter not only saves travel expenses for the customer, but also valuable time, as employees can return to their normal tasks immediately afterwards.

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Micro-erosion drill unveiled

New from Sarix is the SX80 hpm Pulsar micro-erosion drilling machine.

Offering precision of ±0.002 mm and travels of 300 x 150 x 200 mm in the X, Y and Z axis respectively, the SX80 hpm Pulsar completes the range of Sarix micro EDM machines to bring about a cost reduction for those undertaking conventional hole drilling. Applications include fast hole drilling, start holes and high-precision 3D micro-EDM milling.

The simple SX-CNC allows, with several options, the evolution of the machine’s configuration up to multi-axis motion capability. Notably, the CNC is supported by SX-HMI for easy and user-friendly programming and editing, complete with direct-drilling macros and self-learning technology. Complex drilling tasks can be completed through efficient multiple hole-drilling sequences and multi-layer drilling.

Sarix’s SX-MPS Pulsar generator is said to open up new opportunities for faster, deeper, smaller and more precise holes. In fact, micro-EDM drilling technology with solid and tube electrodes can be achieved from 45 µm to 3.0 mm, while high-precision micro holes and shape holes can be produced down to 20 µm with an electrode wire-shaping device.

According to Sarix, high surface-finishing capability down to Ra 0.1 and Ra 0.05 can be delivered with the SX-MFPS micro-fine pulse shape generator.

Further attributes of the SX80 hpm Pulsar include automatic axis positioning control with hole-depth control; an automatic electrode re-feeding spindle with dielectric through-flushing for continuous production; and a breakthrough-detection device for micro-drilling.

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