Growth prompts new investment

Oldham-based Hopwood Gears, which derives half of its turnover from the manufacture of steel, aluminium and plastic gears – and the remainder from high precision subcontract work (particularly for the robotics and defence sectors) – has invested in a new Makino U6 H.E.A.T wire EDM machine from NCMT. The machine, which is capable of long periods of unattended operations, will help the company boost production capacity.

Behind the latest investment by the family-run firm was a doubling of turnover to £4m over the past two years, despite the pandemic.

Operations director Calum Baines says: “We first became aware of NCMT when we attended a gear seminar at their Coventry technical centre and were impressed with the level of technology, as well as the build quality of the machines.”

The new Makino at Hopwood spends 90% of its time in gear production activities, mainly for the wire-cutting of keyways in hardened steel.

Hopwood Gears’ managing director Cory Hopwood says: “As a result of our rapid growth, there was a shortfall of EDM capacity and we were constantly running behind with orders, but that situation has changed dramatically.”

He says that the Makino U6 H.E.A.T. is 30% quicker at cutting than the other EDM machine on-site and uses 30% less wire. The higher speed is due to a combination of machine rigidity and two large, high-pressure flushing pumps that are able to evacuate chips efficiently, allowing the wire to be pushed harder. Unusually, it is possible to mount a 16 kg wire spool that lasts for the whole of a ghost shift, without need for a space-hungry side loader.

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Smart factory production line

LISI Aerospace (BAI UK) and the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) have jointly secured £975,000 in funding from the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) to unlock productivity gains, new markets and reduce waste in the fastener industry through the integration of Industry 4.0 technologies. The pilot production line for high-precision aerospace fasteners, at BAI UK’s Rugby facility, will help define the ‘smart factory’ by pioneering the use of machine learning, data analytics, indirect fault detection and other cutting-edge digital technologies.

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Winbro strikes partnership deal

Machine tool manufacturer Winbro Group Technologies has signed a partnership deal with the Engineering Technology Group. The new agreement will streamline and enhance the route to market for Winbro solutions and provide greater accessibility for customers.

Winbro Group Technologies is a specialist in the design and manufacture of advanced machines and technologies based on non-conventional processes that include high-speed EDM drilling and ECM (electro-chemical machining). The company offers a range of high-technology machining systems for the production of cooling holes and other forms and features in turbine components, thus earning a strong reputation in the aerospace, industrial gas turbine and power generation sectors, as well as electronics, medical, electric vehicles and battery technology.

Further solutions offered by Winbro include laser drilling, cutting and ablation, and creep-feed grinding. The company has a manufacturing and assembly facility in Coalville, with another facility in Rock Hill, SC, USA where Winbro can configure machine systems either as a single process or dual complementary process machines.

Winbro Group’s chief commercial officer Andy Lawson says: “The partnership with ETG is an ideal marriage of Winbro’s technology innovations in non-conventional machining and ETG’s broad base across many sectors. Wherever ETG’s customers have a problem that cannot be addressed with conventional machines, Winbro can potentially offer a solution.”

ETG’s group managing director Martin Doyle adds: “By forming this partnership, ETG will identify opportunities whereby manufacturers across the entire spectrum can benefit from investing in Winbro machine tools. The ETG team is excited for the opportunity to work with this key producer of machine tools, and once again promote and support the UK manufactured brand.”

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Expanding to meet demand

Reeco is doubling the size of its premises in Newtown, Wales, from 5500 sq ft to more than 11,000 sq ft. The enlarged space will enable the company to have dedicated factory areas for assembly and metalwork, cutting and welding, as well as a dedicated training centre. Reeco is a supplier of turnkey solutions based on collaborative robots (cobots) for many different sectors, including automotive, food and beverage, and logistics. Customers include Ford, Rolls-Royce, Honeywell and Unilever. Omron recently selected Reeco as its first ‘Omron Solutions Partner’.

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Micro-hole EDM gives boost

Dynomite Diesel Products, a US-based company with a 20-year history in the manufacture of high-performance diesel fuel injectors, has recently acquired an ONA MF5 micro-hole EDM machine (ONA machines are available in the UK from CNC International).

Until now, producing the high-flow injectors was very expensive and took about 2 hours using a process based on an extrusion machine. The company needed a solution to optimise costs by reducing the manufacturing time, while bringing precision and consistency to the product. By adding the ONA MF5 EDM model to its operations, Dynomite has reduced the cycle time to less than 5 minutes, increased process cost-effectiveness and extended the useful life of its extrusion machine. Furthermore, this new procedure, which combines the company’s extrusion machine and new MF5, makes the final calibration much faster and more consistent, injector-to-injector.

For Lenny Reed, owner of Dynomite, the addition has countless benefits: “The machine offers us to stay abreast of the ever-changing requirements of this sector. We now have the latest technology to manufacture even more precise injectors, which will enable us to create more innovative products in the future.”

Regarding cost and time optimisation, he adds: “We can predict more accurately the time spent on each product, and the costs are very good, which is great for the future as we anticipate the useful life of the machine to be around 20 years.”

Ultimately, the owner is thrilled with his investment as “this machine provides our business with possibilities we never dreamed of.”

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