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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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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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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EDM essential at Raysun

Raysun Innovative Design, a Rugby-based end-to-end precision engineering, design and manufacturing business, has invested in a second Mitsubishi EDM machine, an MV1200S model supplied by the Engineering Technology Group (ETG). The new machine sits alongside its existing MV2400S with simultaneous 6th axis rotary indexing unit.

Charles Ray, director at Raysun Innovative Design, says: “We purchased our second Mitsubishi because we had a good experience with the first machine, the larger MV2400S. This first machine was a bit of a chance for a small business like ours, buying a ‘top-end’ machine tool. However, after we had invested, we found that we were using the machine for all kinds of applications that at first didn’t appear obvious.

“The quality of the Mitsubishi machines really is the core of our business,” he continues. “We rely on them perhaps more heavily than we should, but if we are measuring a part on the CMM and get a questionable result, we look at the CMM first rather than the EDM machine. This demonstrates our reliance and faith in this particular platform.”

As an engineering group, Raysun Innovative Design admits it had very limited previous knowledge of EDM.

“I am not a programmer myself, but my colleagues tell me the control is considerably upgraded from the previous version on the MV2400S that was installed some years back,” says Ray. “From a quality viewpoint, it is much more accessible for maintenance routines; in fact, we can add our own maintenance requirements into the control. If we were in the market for another wire EDM machine, which we may be in the future, there is little doubt that Mitsubishi would be top of the list for consideration.”

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Wire proves 10% faster in trials

Betterbrass, the next-generation brass alloy wire launched recently in the UK by Erodex, has helped users to increase cutting speed by up to 10% in early trials. Manufactured in Germany by Bedra (Berkenhoff), Betterbrass benefits from novel alloy and casting technology, along with a specially developed annealing process. The wire is plug-and-play on all machine types.

“Since its launch, the Betterbrass wire range has received a positive response from customer trials, meaning that we can now provide EDM subcontractors with a cost-effective step up from standard brass wire,” explains Josh Bye, sales engineer at Erodex UK. “As UK industry starts to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were keen to introduce a cost-effective wire to the market that facilitates increased performance. Customers will save money by using the wire, as any increase in wire speed ultimately means less wire consumption.”

Luke Hobbs, director of HLP Engineering Solutions in Halesowen, has experienced first-hand the benefits of using both the Gapstar and Betterbrass ranges from Erodex.

“Simply put, Gapstar is the best wire we have ever used on our Sodick machines from a performance and speed perspective,” he says. “We find it ideal for cutting punches and other long-running jobs. However, we found that Betterbrass is excellent on threading and, for the small increase in the cost of the wire, offers decent speed improvement of around 10-12% over standard brass wire using the same settings. When the job dictates, we will certainly use this wire again.”

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