Lehmann ‘turns tables’ on university VMC

A member of the Russell Group, the University of York has more than 30 academic departments, among them the Department of Chemistry. The Department of Chemistry’s research groups cover a wide variety of disciplines, including atmospheric chemistry, renewable technologies and both medical and neuroimaging, all of which are supported by the extensive capabilities of a multi-disciplinary mechanical workshop.

Senior technician Mark Roper says the flexibility of the workshop’s machine tools is vital to its effective operation. Therefore, when the need arises to purchase new equipment, he looks for cost-effective products that add value and increase the workshop’s capabilities.

This policy is reflected in the recent purchase of a pL Lehmann CNC rotary table now fitted to the workshop’s DMG Mori CMX 600V three-axis VMC. The pL Lehmann TF-507510 was chosen as it provides the required levels of precision, ease of use and flexibility. In addition, the design and lower profile of the TF-507510 ensures minimum intrusion into a machine’s working envelope. Therefore, when compared with conventional, bulky rotary tables, the use of the compact TF-507510 results in much greater space being made available for spindle and tool movement.

Since entering operation, the pL Lehmann CNC rotary table has significantly increased the effectiveness of the workshop’s VMC by enabling it to perform efficient 3+2 axis machining.

“Fitting a pL Lehmann CNC rotary table to our existing three-axis VMC has proven a practical way add to achieve five-sided machining in a single set-up and eliminate steps in our processes,” says Roper. “Furthermore, the rigidity of the TF-507510 and its high clamping forces allows high cutting forces to be applied and precision workpieces to be produced.”

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Mould changes in a limited space

Vehicle component manufacturer ElringKlinger, headquartered in Dettingen an der Erms, Germany, includes high-performance, lightweight plastic products such as oil pans and cam covers in its product portfolio for the global automotive industry.

Tobias Gerst, production engineer responsible for capital equipment procurement and process planning says: “Over the past few years we’ve grown steadily and are running out of space for our production equipment, so we’re sometimes faced with very cramped conditions.”

Space is particularly limited where two automated injection moulding machines operate over three shifts. The machines are located in an enclosure and mould exchange is only possible by entering a narrow, low door. These machines, positioned at an angle of about 120° to each other, require a mould change every 8-9 days. As there is no overhead crane in the factory, it is impossible to load the machines from above. Instead, until recently, operators used one of a number of standard transport carts – a challenging and physically exhausting task.

All that changed with the arrival of a compact transport cart supplied by Roemheld. The RWA 1600 is characterised by its small size, an electro-hydraulic lifting platform and a shuttle table equipped with hydraulically actuated ball bars. In addition, Roemheld can customise the carts to meet specific requirements.

With ball bars set into the support surface of the table, it is easy to move the dies manually in any direction. A special safety mechanism ensures that, during mould transportation, the ball inserts lower into the table surface so the die cannot move.
As standard, Roemheld offers three versions of the 1600 kg capacity cart with either four, six or eight ball bars. After detailed consultation, however, Gerst asked ElringKlinger to produce a special version with nine bars.

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Rapid tooling in demand

A UK engineering specialist has completed its largest-ever rapid tooling project as demand for shorter lead times intensifies. MetLase, which is a joint venture between Rolls-Royce and Unipart, has designed and manufactured a stainless-steel tool measuring 4 m in diameter and capable of holding a component 2 m tall.

The company met the challenge of the major aerospace customer head-on, with manufacturing sign-off and delivery completed in just one month; 150 days quicker than the client would have previously expected. It is just one in a list of notable successes from the Yorkshire-based firm, which harnesses the design skills of a 25-strong engineering team and innovative joining solutions that replace traditional welding process.

“Typical conventional tooling approaches often take a massive block of material and then machine away the unrequired bits to form the tool,” says Richard Gould, business development manager at MetLase. “We take a different stance, basically laser cutting sheet metal, usually stainless steel or titanium, into lots of different elements. These are then joined to form the tool using our own manufacturing technique, removing the need to weld them together and endure the distortion that usually comes with this process.”

He continues: “Everything is controlled ‘in-house’ at MetLase. We’re always adding to our standardised feature library and parametric modelling system that allows us to instantly access formulas for creating tools for specific applications. All of this means we can work with customers to reduce lead times to weeks if not days, ensuring the client has more time for iterating their component design before signing off the tooling. As well as the time saving, our service can also help mitigate massive financial costs associated with last minute changes.”

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Apprentice wins major award

Kirbi Taylor, an apprentice at Nikken Kosakusho Europe Ltd, is the winner of the Rotherham Apprentice of the Year Award for the ‘Intermediate’ category, beating off competition from over 50 applicants from a variety of industries. In addition, Taylor is also shortlisted as a finalist in the University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre’s Apprentice of the Year awards and has already won the centre’s ‘Spotlight’ award for the best in cohort last year.

With a lifelong interest in engineering – and inspired by her grandfather’s previous success in the industry – Taylor decided to pursue a career in engineering by undertaking an apprenticeship in mechatronic maintenance with Nikken and the AMRC Training Centre, which is part of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. The award recognises her exceptional contribution and commitment to Nikken, as judged by a panel of experts from within the Barnsley and Rotherham business sector.

Nikken service manager Mark Timmons says: “Kirbi is a breath of fresh air: friendly, confident and greets everyone with a smile. She is eager to learn and gets involved with as many areas of the business as possible. We have three apprentices in the service department who have all excelled in their careers. They are fundamental to the future of Nikken and engineering. I look forward to watching the progression of Kirbi, and our other apprentices, as they take on more responsibilities and challenges.”

Nikki Jones, director at the AMRC Training Centre, adds: “It comes as no surprise to us that Kirbi has received recognition for her efforts and achievements as an apprentice engineer. Since joining the AMRC Training Centre with Nikken, she has shown true dedication and commitment to the engineering apprenticeship programme, and seized every opportunity with passion and vigour.”

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Work-holding solutions for EV market

A family-owned engineering company in West Yorkshire is aiming to establish itself as an expert in work-holding devices for the production of machined components in electric vehicles.

Craftsman Tools says it is one of only a handful of British companies that specialises in work holding for machining processes, and the only one that designs and manufactures all of its own products. As a result of partnerships built up over several years, Craftsman Tools already produces a work-holding device used by almost all major automotive manufacturers in the machining of camshafts, and is familiar with the unique challenges faced by the industry.

The company’s initial developments are for a friction-welding process to bind two parts of a CV shaft and then machine the joint in situ. Critically, Craftsman Tools will use its expertise to develop work-holding equipment that will last in the harsh manufacturing environment of a fiction welder to ensure conformance with the required geometric tolerances. The company already has supply-chain partnerships with companies targeting major EV manufacturers, such as Tesla.

Electric engines have considerably fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines (20 versus 2000), thus the market for machined components is considerably smaller and there is an even greater emphasis on producing the remaining parts more accurately with tighter tolerances. The initial concept is for a modular design, which can be adaptable to different CV shafts and similar components, increasing its versatility with a host of automotive manufacturers.

Managing director Robert Johnson says: “This is a very exciting project, and one that plays to all of our expertise and knowledge. Sales of electric vehicles increased by 25% last year, and an increase in the uptake of electric vehicles is crucial to the UK achieving its net-zero carbon goal by 2050. The project will be a large step towards Craftsman’s own goal of moving away from carbon-intensive industries and towards the green economy.”

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