Small but perfectly formed

The AgieCharmilles Form E 350 is a compact, high-performance die-sink machine that is suitable for mouldmakers and precision component manufacturers. Even with what is described as the smallest footprint on the market, the machine boasts several design and performance features that will enhance a user’s competitive advantage.

For instance, a sturdy C-axis construction, cross table and cast-iron frame offer high stability and force reduction, which helps maintain a precise spark gap between the part and the electrode. Furthermore, regardless of part weight or dielectric volume, the machine is said to deliver consistent accuracy. Integrated glass scales preserve long-term accuracy and repeatability, and eliminate the need for recalibration and errors associated with traditional ball-screw systems due to backlash and wear.

The latest-generation Intelligent Speed Power Generator (ISPG) on the Form E 350 delivers high surface finishes and accuracy, and helps overcome common EDM issues and challenges, such as excessive and costly electrode wear, by up to 25%. Machining speeds are also increased by up to 40% when using the ISPG, while corner wear is reduced by 50%. Workpieces up to 800 x 500 x 265 mm can be accommodated.

Designed for high efficiency, the machine features a programmable dielectric management system with a 270-litre capacity integrated inside the cabinet. This system fills and empties the work tank without human intervention to keep production flowing, and is easy to access for routine maintenance.

The machine is equipped with the user-friendly AC Form HMI, which is based on a standard Windows platform and offers interactive graphical assistance so that all operations, such as measurement and machining cycles, are illustrated by graphics/icons for fast understanding and ease-of-use.

For further information

New faces at Precision Micro

Chemical etching specialist Precision Micro, which also offers wire EDM services, has strengthened its operation with two key appointments into the positions of director of procurement and quality systems engineer. The Birmingham-based business has recruited Andrew Scott and Sue Guilmant to drive forward its strategy and ensure continued high-quality production and customer service.

Combining wire EDM with photo etching means component profiles can be cut to tighter tolerances and achieve unique characteristics such as tapered edges. Wire EDM also enables the profiling of thicker, surface etched components to 3 mm.

With more than 30 years’ experience in purchasing across a variety of industries, Andrew Scott, director of procurement, will initially focus on further improving customer responsiveness. Alongside Scott, Susan Guilmant brings extensive experience from the automotive sector.

Building on Precision Micro’s advanced set-up, Guilmant will take the company’s quality system to the next level, managing continued regularity in line with critical industry accreditations to ensure the business remains at the forefront of the industry. With recent re-accreditations received, including IATF 16949 and ISO 13485, Precision Micro is a key supplier to the automotive and medical industries.

Ian McMurray, managing director of Precision Micro, says: “The events of recent months have made for challenging trading conditions, particularly in the manufacturing sector. While we’ve faced some difficult decisions in that period, these appointments signal a positive step forward for our business and boost the specialisms of our team at a critical time.”

He adds: “With their many decades of experience, Andrew and Sue will bring a great deal of expertise to our team, ultimately enhancing our ability to meet the highest of customer expectations in a marketplace which is experiencing significant change in the wake of COVID-19.”

For further information

Mazak restructures sales in north

Yamazaki Mazak has unveiled a new structure to its northern sales division as it continues its investment in helping customers recover and adapt to evolving market conditions. The revised structure will stretch from the Scottish border down to – and including – Warwickshire and the entirety of Wales.

Mazak’s newly defined territory will be overseen by general sales manager – northern region, Tony Creamer (pictured), with individual territories managed by five experienced area sales managers: Mark Ireland – Cumbria, Durham and Northumberland; Joe Trozzo – Yorkshire; Karl Hargreaves – Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside; Stephen Bower – Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and East Staffordshire; and Neil Coggins – Shropshire, Warwickshire, West Staffordshire and Wales.

For further information

Hybrid grinding/erosion machine on show

GrindTec 2020, which was postponed from earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to take place on 10-13 November in Augsburg, Germany.

Among the highlights at the show will be the premiere of the new Vollmer VLaser 270 machine concept, which will be presented live for the first time. The VLaser 270 rounds off Vollmer’s range of grinding and erosion machines, making the company a full-line supplier of sharpening technologies, whether rotary tools, circular saws or metal-cutting bandsaws.

At the core of the VLaser 270 is its fixed laser-beam guidance system with novel machine kinematics. The way in which the five axes are arranged means that the tool is always machined at the pivot point of the C axis. This configuration makes it possible to produce tools with minimal axis movement and ensure stable process control. At the same time, the kinematics enables high path accuracy, which has a positive impact on machining accuracy and tool quality. The VLaser 270 can be optionally equipped with a counter point to achieve even higher concentricity, which Vollmer says makes the VLaser 270 the first of its type to offer such a feature.

Also at GrindTec will be the recently introduced Vollmer VHybrid 360 grinding and erosion machine. With this model, tool manufacturers can grind and erode various carbide and PCD tools in a single set-up.

The VHybrid 360 combines technologies and experience that Vollmer has gained in the fields of grinding and eroding over many decades. Among the key components is the Vpulse EDM erosion generator, which is said to set new standards when it comes to efficiency and surface quality. From the world of grinding, the modern machine concept of the VGrind series ensures high precision in tool machining, says Vollmer.

For further information

3D-printing boost for large rail parts

The Intercity Express of the German state railway Deutsche Bahn (DB) is a continental European system of high-speed trains renowned for their comfort and reliability. Occasionally things go wrong, however, as happened last year when two rail carriages needed repair.

Both required a new secondary roll stop, a heavy steel component bolted to the underside of each passenger car that limits lateral play on tight curves to ensure safe cornering.

Secondary roll stops are safety-critical parts with a method of manufacture which rail engineers are reluctant to change. Nevertheless, DB was forced to do just that, as the component is not a regular service item but an accident repair part and therefore not normally held in stock. Two were needed quickly, although the usual supplier was quoting 10 months to deliver the castings, after which they still had to be machined by the usual subtractive process. Moreover, the quote was for a minimum order quantity of four castings.

Florens Lichte, DB’s head of additive manufacturing, says: “Apart from the extended lead-time for delivery, we would also have had to pay serious money for the initial tooling. None of this was an option for us. We needed to reduce the downtime of the railcars drastically to get them back into service quickly and economically. So we decided to 3D print the components using the WAAM process.

“A co-operation was set up with Gefertec, which manufactured the parts at its headquarters near Berlin,” he continues. “We were able to reduce the lead-time by five months, added to which the overall cost was 30% lower.”

Tobias Kruemberg, CEO of Gefertec, which is represented in the UK by Kingsbury, adds: “Our company produces WAAM three- and five-axis CNC metal 3D-printing systems, alongside a subcontract manufacturing service. The benefit of our technology is that many kilograms of metal can be deposited in a relatively short time. When DB came to us, we saw the additive manufacture of their secondary roll stops as ideal for our technology. It’s perfect for the rapid production of high-value metal parts in small quantities at reduced cost, so this application amounted to a sound business case.”

The two components were duly produced on an arc405 five-axis WAAM machine in a cycle time of 36 hours each. The raw material is standard welding coil that does not require the safety precautions associated with powder-bed layer-by-layer fusion technology. In this case, 1.2 mm diameter SW 100S NiMoCr wire was used to produce two high-tensile, fine-grain structures each measuring 250 x 216 x 312 mm and weighing 36.3 kg.

It is at this point that detail on the finalisation of the original project is lacking. So Richard Kingsbury, managing director of Kingsbury, decided to produce a video recreating the manufacturing process in its entirety, including interviews with the decision-makers involved.

He says: “When Gefertec described this application to me I found it so compelling that I wanted to document the project. It brought home to me how additive manufacturing is progressing year-on-year into an ever more practical, low-cost alternative to subtractive machining. So, on behalf of Gefertec, and in co-operation with another of our principals, machining centre manufacturer Hermle, as well as 3D metrology equipment supplier GOM UK, we’ve produced a video detailing the whole process.”

Kevin Hawley, director of GOM UK says: “We became involved in this reconstruction when a 3D-printed sample component identical to the DB secondary roll stop arrived from Gefertec. So that the subsequent machining could be optimised, we created scan data from the part by first taking the CAD model and putting it into our virtual measuring room software.”

The part was scanned in about one hour on the rotary table of a GOM ATOS ScanBox optical 3D measuring machine. When complete, it was possible to understand the part geometry and compare it with the CAD model to detect if there were any deviations. It was then an easy matter to ensure that the 3D-welded, near-net-shape component could be cleaned up satisfactorily when machined.

Dan Castles, business development manager – automated solutions at Kingsbury, says: “We took delivery of the 3D-printed component and the STL data file from GOM. The file was loaded into our CAM system to help us prepare a program for the machining process, which was completed on a Hermle C 650 five-axis vertical machining centre. It was more accurate to do it this way, using actual scan data rather than the theoretical CAD model, as the tool paths could be optimised to the exact form of the welded part.”

The procedure avoided air cuts and no safety passes were needed, as there was no chance of overloading the spindle by taking a heavy cut. It ensured that the part was machined back to net shape in one hit, in a cycle time of around seven hours. The machining time was considerably shorter than would have been required on the original casting and vastly less than trying to mill the part from billet.

Kingsbury concludes: “At the outset, because this is a safety-critical component, there was a lot of investigation, development and design of processes at DB before they could realise the completed part. What was originally a 10-month lead-time for castings was halved once the WAAM route was taken, but in reality we showed during our reconstruction that the process can be condensed into a matter of days, despite having to work with COVID-19 restrictions.

“If a current manufacturing process involves a lengthy lead-time of hard-to-machine material, be it cast, forged or billet, an economical Gefertec solution may be a viable commercial alternative to subtractive machining.”

The video is available at