E-commerce platform

Protolabs, a manufacturer of custom prototypes and low-volume production parts, has created a new e-commerce platform for the UK. The digital manufacturing platform allows users to easily manage their prototyping and on-demand production requirements. Like the previous solution, it still provides quotes for parts with design for manufacturability (DFM) analysis, but now has a more intuitive, user-friendly and even faster interface. The e-commerce solution offers all three of the firm’s manufacturing services – 3D printing, CNC machining and injection moulding – in one place.

For further information www.protolabs.co.uk

Cutting solution for bioprinting

Although medicine has ancient origins, its main goal has always been clear: to help humans live longer and in better conditions. This year, like no other, has raised awareness about the potential of technology and the increasingly important role it plays in the field of health and medicine.

Technology applied to the medical sector is the main application field of a leading Italian group that sawing machine specialist MEP has helped by developing a system to cut titanium used in the production of orthopaedic solutions directly from 3D printing plate. This collaboration with the division involved in the study and manufacture of specific prostheses for patients made of innovative materials, comes from the need to cut off prints of special elements in titanium in a quick yet accurate manner.

This challenge for the engineering team at MEP led to the recommendation of a Shark 350 NC HS 5.0, a dual-column automatic band-sawing machine.
The cast-iron structure of the Shark 350 NC HS 5.0 absorbs vibration and provides the machine with stability while cutting. Moreover, automatic acquisition of the cutting start position reduces operation time, while control of the saw head – powered by a hydraulic cylinder on linear guides with preloaded ball-screw slides – guarantees the reduction of mechanical vibration.

Further advantages of the machine include an adaptive cutting-force control device that facilitates cuts with high surface finish even when using a worn-out tool. The Shark 350 NC HS 5.0 also features a frequency drive that manages the saw-head motor to maximise performance. MEP sawing solutions are available in the UK from ADS Precision.

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Subcontractor upgrades billet production

Contract machining firm Microart, based in Bavaria, has invested in a UniTower storage system and two automatic KASTOwin A 4.6 bandsaws from Kasto. All three are adjacent to one another at one end of the factory.

The cutting range of the saws is 460 mm, large enough for most of the material machined by Microart. Stock processed on the saws is stored in the 15.6-m high tower, which has space for 100 cassettes that hold material up to 6.5 m long. Two types of cassette are used with heights of 160 and 300 mm. Up to 2.5 and 3 tonnes can be loaded into each cassette type respectively. A storage and retrieval machine (SRM) handles the load carriers to deliver stock to the operator at ground level.

Previously, Microart employees had to laboriously store and retrieve long goods manually, but now they only have to push a button. The SRM automatically finds the relevant storage location thanks to the KASTOlogic warehouse management system. After employees receive order data, they call up the required material via a touchscreen which delivers the cassette to the retrieval station.

“The tower storage system and two automatic bandsaws run very smoothly,” states Dr Alexander Artmann, managing partner of Microart. “These investments have enabled us to set important milestones with regard to our corporate goals of automation, productivity, flexibility and quality.”
Managing director Michael Kerscher adds: “If there is a slight malfunction of the equipment, it is usually fixed easily and quickly by remote maintenance. However, if it’s really necessary, a Kasto engineer arrives at our factory in next to no time.”

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Typhoon delivers UK boost

The German Air Force has placed a £1.3bn order with BAE Systems to support the production of 38 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. Work will commence in 2021 at BAE Systems’ sites in Lancashire, maintaining continuity of Typhoon production through to the mid-2020s and sustaining high-value engineering roles in the north of England. More than 5000 BAE Systems employees directly support the Typhoon programme in the UK, underpinning a further 10,000 jobs in the UK economy as a whole.

BAE Systems will deliver more than a third of the components for each of the new Typhoons ordered by the German Air Force, including the aircraft’s front fuselage and tail. These parts will also include a number of 3D-printed components, such as the environmental cooling system for the Typhoon’s next-generation radar. The Airbus plant in Manching, Germany will undertake final assembly.

For further information www.baesystems.com

Positive signs from Hurco

One of the very few physical, as opposed to virtual, machine-tool open houses to take place this year was Hurco Europe’s COVID-safe event at its headquarters in High Wycombe last month. Nearly 20 companies attended, less than half the number expected in a normal year. However, the company sold four ex-demonstration machining centres, including a five-axis model. New machine sales for the month of October were actually a little better than in the same period last year.

Says managing director David Waghorn: “All our staff have been back working full-time since 1 June. Obviously it has been a challenging year, but there are some positive signs. We’re seeing a lot of reshoring from the Far East and Europe, especially of moulds and dies, but also of general subcontract work. In addition, we’ve sold 14 refurbished second-hand machines this year.”

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