Investment doubles business at tool maker

A Scottish precision engineering company and tool maker to the plastics industry has doubled turnover since 2014 when it embarked on a programme of production equipment renewal. A majority of the investment went on four machine tools from Hurco, including three machining centres.

The engineering firm works around the clock servicing numerous industries, including automotive, defence, medical, pharmaceutical, plumbing, food and drink, and electronics, designing and manufacturing different tools from single impression prototype moulds to multi-impression production tools (pictured).

Half of the business comes from manufacturing decorative injection moulds that produce plastic caps and closures for premium bottles of whiskey, gin and other spirits. The designs of the bottle closures – comprising artwork and lettering – mostly require complex, intricate milling with ball-nose cutters, sometimes as small as 50 µm in diameter, held in heat-shrink back ends. Due to the small size of the cutters and the hardness of the tool steels processed – P20, Orvar Supreme, 113 grade and D2 – designs are generally machined into graphite EDM electrodes for subsequent die-sinking into the mould.
A spokesperson for the company says: “Much of the very fine milling is done on our Hurco VM10HSi machining centre.

Installed in 2018, it’s fitted with a Kitagawa rotary table 4th axis, 30,000 rpm spindle and an enclosure mounted on the table with air extraction to remove graphite dust from the working atmosphere. It is also a fantastic machine for high-speed milling directly into hardened materials, which we are doing more and more.”

The two other Hurco machining centre on site are VMX42i and VMX30i models, acquired in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

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Five-axis machine from Spinner

Featuring a working volume of 815 x 510 x 510 mm in a small 2.5 x 1.8 m footprint, the new VC850-5A is the latest prismatic metal-cutting machine to be launched by German manufacturer Spinner.

The five-axis, vertical-spindle machining centre, which is configured with a +110/-5° swivelling trunnion carrying the rotary table, is available in the UK and Ireland through sole sales and service agent, Whitehouse Machine Tools.

Managing director Tim Whitehouse says: “This is a top-end machine with robust rotary axes, which are normally the weak point in five-axis machining. They are driven by a new planetary gear train and fitted with absolute rotary scales instead of incremental encoder feedback.

“We’re also impressed by the additional clamping plate beside the table that allows Op20 – as well as Op10 – to be programmed in a single cycle for one-hit machining,” he adds. “The option of a rotary hydraulic supply for automatic workpiece clamping is a further benefit, as it introduces the possibility of automation for long periods of unattended production.”

The 5-tonne machine has an FEM-optimised, cast construction that provides a high level of rigidity and vibration damping for elevated cutting performance and high standards of surface finish on machined components up to 200 kg. Further advantages are that tool life is extended and machining accuracy is enhanced, reports the company.

Part of the reason for the machine’s compactness is the patented method for protecting the saddle’s Y-axis guideway from swarf and coolant ingress using a single wiper system, eliminating the need for a telescopic cover.

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Endeavor on the front foot

Didcot-based Endeavor Engineering is a subcontract supplier of precision parts to sectors that include motorsport, semiconductor, oil and gas, aerospace, and scientific instrumentation.

From the outset in 2012 the company has invested in new Doosan machine tools from Mills CNC. In fact, Endeavor Engineering now has eight Doosan machines at its disposal: three Puma lathes and five DNM-series machining centres.

Says company director Martin Bell: “We did our homework: we spoke to customers and we attended trade shows. From our research we found that Doosan machines were popular. They had a good reputation in the market and were renowned for their quality, performance, reliability and value.

“When we first approached Mills to discuss our machining requirements, they understood what we were trying to achieve and were on-board immediately,” he adds.

The Doosan machines at Endeavor Engineering are being used to produce a range of components made from materials including steel, stainless steel, titanium, aluminium, plastics and composites, to exacting accuracies and finishes.
“We have a good relationship with Mills CNC based on mutual integrity and trust,” says Bell. “In addition to investing in Doosan machines we use Mills’ independently-operated machine-tool finance arm to help fund our investments, and its CNC Training Academy to help train our programmers and operators.”

Adds fellow director Andy Strong: “Continuous improvement is a journey, not a destination. We’re constantly looking to move forward and be the best we possibly can.”

Endeavor has a rolling five-year plan that is flexible, and reviewed and updated regularly to ensure its relevancy. As part of the plan, the company is shortly hoping to increase its current 4500 sq ft of floor space by acquiring premises adjacent to its existing facility.

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£1.2m CNC investment at TGM

Targeting opportunities with the major aerospace primes has seen a Lancashire manufacturing specialist invest £1.2m in state-of-the-art CNC technologies. TGM, which is part of the £43m Aero Services Global (AS.G) Group, has just completed its first parts for a MoD contract on its recently installed Zimmermann FZ33 milling machine.

The long-bed capabilities, machine dynamics, 30,000 rpm spindle speed and fast cycle times will provide the company with additional capability to take on more than £2m of new work annually, as well as allowing it to tender for contracts on larger structural assemblies.

Sarah Stephens, director at TGM, says: “Traditionally we have provided three, four and five-axis machined components to aerospace tier-ones and this is still a core market, but we now have the technology, processes and skills in place to work directly with the primes.

“The Zimmermann is a fantastic machine and is the largest of all of the 18-strong CNC machine tools we currently have at our Preston facility,” she adds. “An initial package of work is already in production on the Zimmermann and there are plenty of opportunities we’re currently exploring that could fill up capacity. With this additional technology, we’re hoping to double sales to £6m over the next two years.”

TGM, which became part of AS.G in 2016, specialises in the machining of both hard and soft metals, producing components and sub-assemblies for customers supplying Airbus and BAE Systems.

“The first package of work for the Zimmermann is worth £1.4m to our business over two years and is the type of contract we are now looking to secure,” concludes Stephens.

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Australia’s largest ever mill

A Starrag Group-supplied Droop+Rein gantry milling machine with X, Y and Z-axis traverses of 14,000 x 13,000 x 3500 mm, plus an 11 m rotary table to permit turning operations in the same set-up, will be the largest machine tool to ever enter operations in Australia.

Being supplied to the Naval Group in Osborne, South Australia, the five-axis giant will be used to machine hull elements and other high-precision components for the Royal Australian Navy’s Attack-class submarines.

The order for the machine comes after the Australian Government selected French company Naval Group to deliver a fleet of 12 submarines that are to be built in a modern construction yard in Osborne.

Starrag Group is collaborating with Australian machine-tool manufacturer, H&H Machine Tools, to deliver the Droop+Rein G 110TT HR100C vertical gantry machine. H&H will manufacture key components, supply qualified personnel to help install the gantry and provide technical support for the entire life cycle of the machine. Starrag will provide H&H with the necessary expertise through on-site training and quality control.

The size and efficiency of the machine being supplied, which is also capable of turning thanks to the integrated rotary table, was of fundamental importance to the purchase decision. Starrag Group’s Droop+Rein G 110 TT HR100C owes its high-precision to features such as the hydrostatic guides in all linear axes, as well as the thermo-symmetrical design of the milling unit with integrated C axis.
Milling heads can be changed automatically via a head change interface. The team responsible selected five different machining heads to use in this project: the high-performance fork milling head possesses the ability to not only apply tools at any angle, but has the necessary prerequisites for heavy-duty machining in five axes simultaneously.

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