First Scottish hydrogen-powered train

Scottish Enterprise, Transport Scotland and the Hydrogen Accelerator, based at the University of St Andrews, have appointed Arcola Energy and a consortium of industry-leaders in hydrogen fuel-cell integration, rail engineering and functional safety to deliver Scotland’s first hydrogen-powered train. A key objective of the project is to create opportunities for the Scottish rail supply chain through skills development and industrialisation of the technology.

Arcola Energy will develop the technology platform for the train’s new powertrain from its planned Scottish base. The company will extend its existing A-Drive platform to meet rail safety and compliance requirements, thereby enabling the consortium to significantly reduce development time and cost. Arcola Energy anticipates the delivery of its complete hydrogen-powered solution within just 10 months.

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Medical parts gain from single set-up efficiency

A trio of Bumotec multi-axis, multi-tasking machining centres are helping Shanghai Medical Instruments (Group) to maintain its 50% market share in China for medical instruments. Moreover, the ability to finish-machine up to six faces at high accuracy and in a single set-up, have enabled the company to expand profitably into the manufacture of minimally-invasive instruments and devices.

Indeed, while the effectiveness of the machines at single set-up multi-operations has brought great rewards in both prototyping and manufacture, the company highlights its latest Bumotec – the five-axis s181 model with ‘front live tools’ on a sub-spindle – as being able to boost productivity by 20% on some parts.

Capable of producing complex, multi-faceted components from bar up to 65 mm diameter, and with up to seven-axis simultaneous machining in a single set-up, Bumotec machining centres are capable of drilling, thread forming, grinding, gear cutting and broaching, in addition to turning and milling. According to Starrag, the machines are renowned globally for producing small, intricate workpieces that come off ready for assembly with no deburring – as Shanghai Medical Instruments has found.

A member of the Yuwell Group, the company has four production plants in the Shanghai area; three manufacturing/assembly facilities and one site dedicated to forging, surface finishing and heat treatment. Established in 1928, Shanghai Medical Instruments annually manufactures over 10 million parts for use by hospitals throughout China and in other countries. Components are produced in limited batches of 200-300-off, with the company’s in-house manufacturing routines complemented by a group of subcontractors. In addition, there is an in-house team of 20 quality control engineers.

Shanghai Medical Instruments has a product catalogue of more than 8000 items, which includes its flagship, award-winning JZ brand. Key products include knives, scissors and surgical clamps, as well as 400 different types of micro instruments for anastomosis, the treatment of lymphatic vessels and limb reconstruction.

Its portfolio also embraces instruments for ENT surgery, orthopaedic implants and 300 types of minimally invasive instruments such as laparoscopic clamps (used in endoscopy procedures) plus 400 instruments for dental surgery. Surgical staplers and electrical tools used in surgery also form part of the portfolio.

The development of so many different products is based on close work with hospitals and universities, and the company’s R&D team collaborates with these ‘partners’ throughout the entire new product development process, from design, studies and validation, up to production. Shanghai Medical Instruments’ well-equipped workshops allow the process to be flexible and responsive, and the prototyping and production of certain parts is a key area for the Starrag-supplied Bumotec machining centres (models s192, s181, s191), the first of which was installed in 2005.

A range of 500 different types of minimally-invasive and ENT instruments are machined in a single set-up from bar on the Bumotec machining centres. Over the years, the company has found that ‘conventional’ separate processes/machines are not able to produce these components effectively, especially in terms of quality and the issue of ‘matching’ parts and features. Also, the multiple complex clamping procedures required for the various stages of machining make traditional production slow and inefficient.

Bumotec machines, on the other hand, can produce complete components in a single clamping from bar stock, finish-machining up to six faces in record time – in one case, up to 20% quicker.

In fact, even the production of separate parts (on the same machine) for an orthopaedic instrument assembly meets the company’s stringent quality standards. The two-part assembly is now produced with high accuracy, ready for assembly and more cost-effectively by a Bumotec s191, rather than the former route of using a lathe, a mill then an electrical discharge machine to finish the parts to the required standard.

Starrag’s Bumotec s191H can achieve highly accurate (±2.5 µm) machining solutions within its X-, Y- and Z-axis range of 410, 200 and 400 mm, respectively, courtesy of linear drives and high-level thermal stability. In addition, a sub-spindle can turn in both horizontal and vertical planes for multi-process/tasking routines. Tool magazine options extend to up to 90 pockets on a machine that offers rapid traverse rates of 50 m/min and a 30,000 or 40,000 rpm spindle, which also contributes to fast cycle times.

Another example concerns the production of an instrument for ENT surgery. This part is produced on a Bumotec s181 in eight minutes, instead of 10 minutes by former methods, thanks to the simultaneous use of the machine’s sub-spindle.

The company continues to invest in Bumotec because, it says, “the machines’ stability in production is extraordinary, and their ease-of-use makes them accessible even to the newest members of our production team”. Also, when installed, “the training supplied means we can get the machines into production very quickly”. Shanghai Medical Instruments adds: “Production changeovers are quick and easy, and maintenance routines are effective and efficient thanks to Starrag’s excellent customer support.”

Commenting on how the success of Bumotec machines can be mirrored by UK medical manufacturers, Lee Scott, Starrag UK’s director for sales and applications, says: “The UK medical manufacturing market is an important sector for Starrag and, underpinned by our engineering applications knowledge, we know that Bumotec users can ‘hit the ground running’ in terms of gaining production efficiencies.”

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Five times more ventilator parts output

Shannon-based Bolger Engineering, a contractor to the medical industry, recently saw its order for Medtronic Puritan Bennett PB-series ventilator components leap from 4000 a week to over 18,000. And that increase in production is continuing early this year.

Sales manager Paul Collins says the company quickly identified ways of adapting to increase manufacturing capacity, including bringing in 35 more people and implementing new 25/5 shift patterns. He also says it became clear that Bolger’s Radan CADCAM software from Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence would be a key enabler in managing what he describes as a “major leap”.

“The design of the ventilators and individual parts didn’t change – but the challenge was to increase production by more than 500%,” he states. “We use Radan to program both our Trumpf punching machines and Trumpf laser cutter, so with over 18,000 components a week to produce for these ventilators alone, we knew that material utilisation and program optimisation were going to be crucial.”

He adds: “Our programmers typically take a 3D model or DXF drawing and import it into Radan to tool the part for either the punch or laser machines, depending on material thickness and profile complexity. They then nest and program the machine where Radan gives the best sheet utilisation. This is hugely important, as more often than not, material is the largest percentage of a job’s costs.”

Radan software allows the user to optimise manufacturing nests, while also enabling the profiling of components to within ±0.2 mm.

“That is very important as some components have 14 bends per part and we can very quickly see a high stack of tolerances when everything comes together at the assembly stage,” explains Collins.

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Hypertherm unveils ProNest 2021

Hypertherm, a manufacturer of industrial cutting systems and software, has released ProNest 2021, a major version update of its CADCAM nesting software for automated cutting. This new release contains new features and enhancements designed to make customers more efficient and profitable.

Among the new features is a redesigned 2D CAD package that provides improved font support, the ability to shape text, and other new functions that are especially popular among sign makers. Furthermore, a CAD editor preference allows users to set a default CAD program for edits to parts in the ProNest part list. Customers can simply select the embedded ProNest CAD software or choose a third-party software such as AutoCAD.

Another enhancement is interior bridge cutting, allowing users to add bridges to text and other interior geometry so that pieces do not drop when cut. This capability helps to minimise interior cut-outs on parts for aesthetic purposes and reduces tip-ups.

“ProNest 2021 builds on the strong foundation of ProNest 2019 to make the programming process more efficient,” says Tom Stillwell, marketing project manager for Hypertherm CADCAM software products. “Whether using plasma, waterjet, laser or oxy-fuel cutting, this new version provides the powerful tools that fabricators and manufacturers need to increase material savings, boost productivity, lower operating costs and improve part quality.”

In addition, Hypertherm is releasing upgrades to its ProNest LT software for lighter production environments. Users with an active subscription and customers with an active maintenance plan, can upgrade to the new version of their respective product at no additional charge and continue receiving unlimited technical support, and other benefits.

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Sigma Labs and DMG Mori strike deal

DMG Mori has selected Sigma Labs Inc, a developer of quality-assurance software for the commercial metal 3D-printing industry, as the preferred melt-pool monitoring system supplier for its LaserTec SLM machines. Engineering teams from both companies worked extensively to test the integrated solution, ensuring that it meets the needs of industrial manufacturers utilising DMG Mori’s family of metal 3D printers. DMG Mori will be providing an interface with its printers so that the systems are PrintRite3D ready. The terms of the agreement remain private between both parties.

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