Muffett gearing-up for precision

Based in Tunbridge Wells, Muffett Gears makes regular investments in cutting-edge quality-control equipment. The company’s most recent addition is a case in point: a Crysta-Apex S9106 CNC CMM from Mitutoyo UK.

Director Mark Jagelman says: “The production of precision gears and associated components requires exceptional precision and the application of exacting quality standards through all stages of production and assembly. We recently decided to replace our existing CMM for a range of reasons. For instance, the machine needed an upgrade that was due to cost £50,000. In addition, we thought that our old CMM’s running costs, including training, services and calibration, were becoming exorbitant.

“After investigating various CMM brands and models, a successful demonstration of a Crysta-Apex S9106 CNC CMM at Mitutoyo UK’s showroom convinced us that this high-specification machine was ideal for our needs,” he adds. “In addition to providing the necessary levels of precision it also had the speed of operation that could keep pace with the high volumes of work passing through our busy quality-control department.”

The Crysta-Apex S9106 has a measuring volume of 900 x 1000 x 600 mm. As well as measuring large, one-off parts, the CMM’s generous capacity also makes it possible to inspect multiple smaller components in automated, CNC, mass-measurement routines.

“Our new Mitutoyo CMM’s ability to accurately and rapidly inspect a large batch of components has further improved our quality-control department’s efficiency levels,” says Jagelman. “Notably, our inspection staff are now able to load the CMM’s bed with multiple components, quickly recall the relevant part program and instigate a fully automated inspection procedure. On completion, we can generate a detailed inspection report relating to each component.”

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BGF backs Sertec

BGF – a UK-based capital investor – has invested a further £4m in Midlands-headquartered automotive components manufacturer, Sertec Group, as the business looks ahead to European growth. In 2020, Sertec secured significant new contract wins in the electric vehicle (EV) and lightweight technology markets, using its engineering expertise and technology know-how. The company has also recently completed a world-class battery component assembly line in Coleshill. Sertec Group has six manufacturing sites in the Midlands, plus other facilities in Hungary, Germany and China.

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Alphacam licence aids PPE production

A free evaluation licence from Alphacam meant that a manufacturer could put a machine awaiting commissioning to work producing essential PPE for front-line health workers. Codem Composites had recently invested in a pre-owned Blackman & White CNC cutting machine, with a bed capacity of 2.2 sq m, to cut carbon fibre pre-impregnated with an epoxy resin. The carbon fibre serves to make components for the motorsport industry and satellite dishes.

“The machine hadn’t been fully commissioned and we had post-processing issues with the software and interface – we didn’t want to invest several thousand pounds in software immediately, given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19,” explains managing director Kevin Doherty. “However, when we got the call asking us to cut NHS scrubs, we approached Alphacam to help get the machine up and running. Alphacam supported our efforts by providing us with a free evaluation licence.”

The software gave Codem complete flexibility and speed of production by optimising nests. Running at a capacity of around 500 full sets of scrubs a week, the Blackman & White machine cuts components for a group of volunteers in Northamptonshire to put together.

Alphacam accurately interrogates the DXF file for each of the patterns, and computes all permutations and variables.

“So rather than someone having to work everything out manually, such as what we are going to cut, how we are going to cut it, and what’s got to go where, we simply input which components we need in which sizes,” he says. “Alphacam does the rest, including helping us with the correct cutting speeds and feed rates. The first cut parts came off the machine within 24 hours of installing the software.”

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AM boost for regulated sectors

A new project at the National Centre for Additive Manufacturing (NCAM), based at the MTC in Coventry, aims to transform the use of additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing in highly regulated industries. Currently the adoption of AM in sectors such as aerospace is hindered somewhat by the lack of standards for part quality, reliability, traceability and process repeatability. The Daedalus project, funded by UK Research and Innovation, will help make the UK become the go-to place for forward-thinking manufacturing by enabling AM in highly regulated industries such as aerospace, space, oil and gas, and medical.

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Getting smart with Chiron SmartLine

The range of machine tools from the Chiron Group has become even smarter with the new ProtectLine and CutLine software solutions. Available in the UK & Ireland from the Engineering Technology Group (ETG), the modules form part of the SmartLine portfolio, making it possible to increase productivity, improve part quality and boost machine availability and capacity.

ProtectLine allows companies to prevent potentially significant, expensive damage and production downtime. The system is characterised by a digital twin that runs ahead of the physical machine in ‘real time’ during operational mode. For instance, if the digital twin encounters problems or even a crash, the software shuts the machine down in a controlled manner that preventively protects it from collisions.

According to ETG, one of the main features that sets this software solution apart from other established systems is that the simulated model always corresponds to the current production situation. Machine crashes can be reliably prevented, even in the case of small adjustments or operating errors. A further advantage is that ProtectLine integrates directly into the new TouchLine control panel.

ProtectLine fully replicates the physical machine, including the complete machine tool, cutting tools and tool holders, as well as the workpiece. Just like a ‘real’ machine, the software enables virtual tool changes and simulates a virtual machining process in parallel to the actual machining process.

Through this simulation, the geometry of the virtual workpiece always corresponds to that of the actual workpiece, resulting in a realistic model. Used together, the ProcessLine and ProtectLine modules of the SmartLine portfolio form an integrated digital process chain.

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