Substantial investment drives growth

LBBC Beechwood, a fabrication business forming part of the LBBC Group, has invested a six-figure sum into a large state-of-the-art CNC universal milling machine as part of a major overhaul. The machine will open up new business opportunities in precision engineering projects, as well as bring major benefits to existing customers. The company will now be able to offer a full end-to-end service in the production of specialist fabrications and complex machined parts, without the need to subcontract part way through the manufacturing process.

This significant investment is part of a wider programme of improvements at the Pudsey-based business over the past 18 months.
A portion of the investment fund was secured through a successful application to the Leeds Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which has been used to improve production facilities. Further funding was obtained through the Supply Chain Programme run by the University of Huddersfield, which has contributed towards the funding of a LEAN implementation programme throughout the entire LBBC Group.

The installation of the new machine is the culmination of a whole programme of improvements in the business, including the introduction of lean management processes and a total office and factory refurbishment. These changes will have huge benefits for customers and open up opportunities for new work streams.

Managing director of the group, Howard Pickard, says: “We’re very grateful to the LEP and Huddersfield University for the grants, which will allow the Beechwood division to leap forwards immeasurably in terms of safety, quality, cost and delivery. The investment in the new machine, alongside investment in our people, will ensure we can deliver huge benefits to our valued customers in the years to come.”

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Hurco machining centre raises productivity

A Hurco Hawk CNC knee-type milling machine has been the mainstay of prismatic machining at the Warsash, Southampton factory of boat fittings and accessories specialist Sea Sure Ltd since it was purchased second-hand in 2012. However, the rising level of demand for all Sea Sure products, but in particular the SHOCK-WBV range of shock mitigation systems for boat seats, led the company to supplement the Hurco Hawk by approaching the same supplier for a new VM10i three-axis, vertical-spindle machining centre with a 660 x 406 x 508 mm working volume and 12,000 rpm spindle.

The machine arrived earlier this year and required the Hurco engineer to dismantle the top of the machine, so that it would fit through a door of restricted height, and rebuild it over a period of three days.

Graham Brown, managing director, says: “The improvement in productivity has been dramatic. Previously it took 40 minutes to machine a stainless steel rear mounting block on the Hawk, for example, whereas we produce them in pairs on the VM10i in 11 minutes – over seven times faster. We now fixture a complete kit of 10 and 15 mm thick billets of waterjet-cut aluminium tooling plate and other raw material for one of our shock mitigation products so they can all be machined in one hit on the new Hurco.

“It saves set-up time and shortens overall cycles due to fewer tool changes,” he adds. “Just half an hour is needed to machine everything under the spindle, and that includes thread milling more than 40 holes of 4 mm diameter.”

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HMC offers fast, heavy-duty cutting

Starrag’s new Heckert H65 compact horizontal machining centre is said to add a new dimension to heavy-duty four-axis machining for a machine of its class. Occupying just 24 sq m, Starrag says the H65 offers machining speeds up to 30% faster than comparable models and can increase output levels by 80%.

With X, Y and Z axes of 850 x 1020 x 1000 mm, and 630 x 500 mm twin pallets each able to accommodate loads of 1.5 tonnes (with a pallet-change time of 13 secs), this latest addition to Heckert’s compact H range of cost-competitive machining centres provides traverse rates up to 80 m/min and a standard spindle speed of up to 10,000 rpm from its 60 kW/450 Nm hollow shaft HSK-A100 spindle.

A motor spindle with a run-up time of just 1 second is suitable for machining light alloy materials such as aluminium. The Heckert H65 can utilise a wide range of tool magazines and tool changers; tools up to 22 kg can be held securely in a chain/in-line magazine, while a tower magazine will accommodate tools up to 50 kg. The chip-to-chip time of the most dynamic machine variant design is 3.1 seconds.

As standard, the internal coolant supply delivers up to 100 l/min at 80 bar through the centre of the spindle and is programmable via M code.

The 24-inch control panel (Fanuc or Siemens CNC) offers multi-touch, intuitive operator guidance via Starrag’s HMI touch screen, and the control is future-proofed with built-in IO-Link technology that allows users to monitor machine status (even individual machine elements) at any time and from anywhere.

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Compact machining cell from DMG Mori

Capable of producing complex workpieces weighing up to 400 kg from a wide range of materials, from aluminium to titanium, the new DMP 35 vertical machining centre is now available from DMG Mori. Occupying a footprint of just 3.15 sq m, the standard three-axis version can optionally come as a five-axis model and/or with automated pallet handling.

Axis travels of 350 x 420 x 380 mm are generous considering that the machine width is only 1285 mm if using the 15-station tool magazine, rising slightly to 1410 mm if choosing an alternative 25-pocket magazine. Underlining the breadth of options available, customers can select a 24,000 rpm/52 Nm in-line spindle and an HSK-A40 or SK30 interface in place of the standard 15,000 rpm/78 Nm spindle.

Up to 2 g acceleration delivers a chip-to-chip time of 1.5 seconds, while rapid traverse is 60 m/min in all orthogonal axes. Linear scales (fitted as standard) feed axis positions to the Siemens control.

A further option is the integration of a swivelling rotary table for five-axis simultaneous metal cutting.

Requiring an additional floor area of 1.15 sq m, it is possible to connect a WH 3 automation unit manufactured by DMG Mori to the DMP 35. Rapid autonomous exchange of machine pallets fixtured with raw material or finished components raises productivity. It additionally introduces the possibility of six-sided machining and allows long periods of unattended operation, including lights-out.

DMG Mori also offers the DMP 70 with travels of 700 x 420 x 380 mm.

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Drilling line helps Scottish firm expand

Ficep UK has supplied a Valiant CNC drilling line to Scottish engineering and construction firm, AJ Engineering, as part of a multi-million-pound expansion that has seen the business expand its Forres-based manufacturing site by 4.7 acres. The fully automated Valiant line will help AJ Engineering to double its production capabilities and is already driving up demand for services.

Ficep’s Valiant is a three-spindle system for processing a full range of rolled structural steel shapes. The machine performs marking, drilling and cutting tasks on long steel sections, freeing-up AJ Engineering’s workforce to focus on complex fabrications. Among the Valiant’s key features are: its tool-change system, which accommodates up to six tools per spindle; double vices and dual alignment systems to improve material clamping; and sub-axis spindle positioning that enables simultaneous drilling on all three surfaces.

Alan James, managing director of AJ Engineering, says: “Working with Ficep has been extremely positive, from initial introduction and the ordering process [which happened virtually due to the pandemic], to the installation ahead of time and extensive training. Also important was the fact that Ficep has a ‘family’ of machines which, in time, can be added to existing manufacturing process.”

He continues: “The machinery gives back time to our staff so they can concentrate on the more technical projects and no longer have to spend time measuring or marking beams – or drilling them – the new machine does this automatically from the details downloaded directly from our drawing office. With this technology, and having more operators available, we’ll be able to target a greater number of complex projects.”

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