ITC meets tooling needs of subcontractor

When Steve Knowles founded Newport CNC over 10 years ago, like many start-ups he bought his first machine and worked evenings and weekends in his new venture while retaining a day job. Knowles’ first port of call was to buy a Haas VF4SS machining centre and use cutting tools from Industrial Tooling Corporation (ITC).

Building its early success in the high-end automotive and aftermarket industries, Newport CNC is now entering its 11th year of business, which has been celebrated with several investments. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the company had planned to move into a new factory and purchase its fifth Haas machine, a ST20Y turning centre. The lockdown created several obstacles, but the five-employee business has now moved into its new 4700 sq ft facility and installed its Haas turning centre.

Commenting upon the challenge, Knowles says: “Our new facility is three times the size of the previous site, and the Haas machine is the first turning centre we’ve installed. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we’re confident that our new machine and new facility are a bedrock for us to build an even stronger business in the future.”

One of the bedrocks of the company from day one has been cutting tools from ITC and, alluding to this, Knowles says: “I’ve used ITC cutting tools for over 20 years and they’ve never let me down. More than 80% of our work is aluminium machining and ITC’s solid-carbide cutters for this material are beyond compare. I’ve had sales reps from virtually every tooling company trialling tools down the years and none of them can match the tool life, productivity, surface finishes or overall performance of the ITC range for aluminium. Over 80% of our cutting tools are now supplied by ITC and we have little interest in wasting time trialling alternate tools; time has proven that we’re already using the best tools available for our business.”

The Milton Keynes company typifies subcontract manufacturing by serving the aerospace, electronics, medical, motorsport and automotive sectors, manufacturing everything from commercial airline seats and high-end bespoke automotive work, through to participating in the recent Ventilator Challenge. Offering three, four and five-axis machining, as well as Y-axis turning capability, Newport CNC is well equipped to meet industry’s demands. With 75% of the company’s work revolving around aluminium machining and the remaining 25% being a mixture of titanium alloys, plastics and stainless steel, ITC has been instrumental in the tooling strategies adopted by Newport CNC.

For a number of years, the ITC 3081 solid-carbide end mill for aluminium has been the go-to cutter.
“We started with several ITC solid-carbide end mills, but found our sweet spot with the 3081 series for high-feed machining – it has been a revelation,” says Knowles. “The metal removal rates are beyond compare and the surface finishes are outstanding. We’re using these end mills for everything from high removal roughing through to pocketing, profiling and finishing.”

With such a glowing reference for the 3081 series, Newport CNC now uses the range with diameters that include 3, 5, 6, 10, 12, 16 and 20 mm, with a selection of square-end and corner radii from 0.5 to 3 mm.

As the company has evolved, so has its reliance on the range of products from ITC. The company has subsequently adopted the Britcut series of two and four-flute end mills in diameters of 4, 6, and 10 mm. With centre cutting, facet relief and a 30° helix, Newport CNC has selected the TiAlN-coated option for machining various materials. The success of both the 3081 and Britcut range has since paved the way for the introduction of the 3152 three-flute, short-length AlTiN-coated end mills, the 2112 and 2012 series ball-nose end mills for profiling, and the 4071 series of chamfer tools.

ITC has been a longstanding distributor of Widia solid-carbide end mills, so when it widened its scope by adding Widia indexable tools, Newport CNC trialled the Widia VSM11 high-feed 40 mm diameter face mill. Comparing the Widia VSM11 against an industry-leading manufacturer, the VSM11 outperformed the competitor with a tool life improvement of 30% and a productivity increase of 40%, all while reducing the cost-per-insert against the previous tool. The business has since added the VSM11 80 mm diameter face mill to its inventory list.
As a relatively small subcontract machine shop that serves a multitude of sectors, Newport CNC can never second guess what type of work will be coming through the door next.

“We have a standardised tooling strategy on each of our machining centres,” explains Knowles. “Each machine has a 24-tool capacity and the first 10 positions are standardised across all of them. The first two tools are the 80 and 40 mm Widia VSM11 face mills. We can change the inserts from the XDCT aluminium grade, and geometry to the XDPT steel insert designation, in a matter of minutes. This prepares us for rough machining and facing every job that comes through the door, regardless of whether its aluminium, steel, stainless or heat-resistant alloys. It also keeps our inventory and costs to a manageable level.

“Positions three through to 10 are ITC solid-carbide end mills,” he adds. “Once again, the 3081 series plays a prominent role with a 16 mm diameter end mill featuring a 1 mm radius slotting into position three. Tool positions four, five and six also house 3081 series end mills, in diameters reducing from 10 to 3 mm. These first six positions give us complete flexibility for everything from high-feed roughing and facing, down to slotting and finish-machining operations.

“In our other prominent tooling positions, we have 3 and 6 mm ball-nose tools that support all our needs when it comes to intricate machining, profiling and finishing of precision features. Beyond these positions, we have a spot drill, chamfer tool and a couple of standard tap sizes, which leaves many carousel positions free. We can rapidly fill these positions if new jobs with challenging features or material types arrive. This strategy allows us to standardise our tool positions and overhang lengths, while giving staff familiarity with the system.”

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Growing up ‘Swiss’

Founder and president of Minic Precision, Mike Gajewski, grew up ‘Swiss’ working on Tornos cam-operated machines from the age of 19.

Contacted for an apprenticeship by a local machine shop that operated Tornos cam machines, the role matured into a full-time job for Gajewski, who eventually worked his way up to plant and production manager. After nine years, he decided it was time to open up his own machine shop.

In 1992, Gajewski rented a 2000 sq ft space in Woodstock, Illinios, purchased six Tornos and Bechler cam machines and founded Minic Precision. Established to meet growing demand for electronic assemblies requiring high-precision contacts, he named his business Minic, an acronym based on the names of his two sons, Michael and Nicholas.

By 1995, Gajewski had filled his shop floor with 28 Tornos and Bechler cam models. Some of the early Tornos cam machine purchases included M7s, R10s and R125s, a number of which remain operational today. Even now, Gajewski is proud to have retained his association with Tornos, as highlighted by his acquisition of three Tornos Swiss CNC lathes in the past 18 months.

Minic Precision has experienced strong growth and expansion over the years, driving the company’s relocation to an expanded facility in Spring Grove. The in-house quality-control programme and ISO9001 certification are major factors behind the continued growth at Minic, and this commitment to quality is still evident in the parts produced by Tornos machines today.

Aside from quality management, value-added engineering is also what separates Minic Precision from its competition. The company’s speciality is in micro-machined parts. When end users in stringent quality and design-focused industries such as medical, electronics, automotive and aerospace, bring their part requirements to Gajewski, the company facilitates smooth flow from design and prototyping, to production. Minic not only helps its customers to select the best materials, but offers expert machining and design processes to maximise the cost savings. This service has helped Minic build key relationships with electronics assemblers, medical companies and the US military, as well as customers in the automotive and aerospace fields.

To continue providing higher cost savings and increased efficiency over time, Gajewski realised the need to purchase a CNC turning machine when he was getting cross-over work that better-suited more advanced control. Enabling quick turnaround time was not 100% feasible or possible on the cam machines. In 2004, Minic turned to another sliding-head lathe manufacturer as Tornos was not offering entry-level to mid-range machines, only high-end lathes. Shortly after the rival purchase, Gajewski realised it was not on par with the quality that underpinned the company’s success and he began searching for a higher quality and more rigid mid-range CNC lathe. In 2015, Tornos came out with the Swiss GT series.

As Minic’s vision and goal puts quality at the forefront of what it manufactures, the company needed machines that lived up to the task. The main purchasing strategy has always been to invest in something that will go the long haul, be reliable, hold tight tolerances and provide quick chip-to-chip times. Minic also wanted a machine that could run at speeds of over 10,000 rpm on the main and counter spindles. The long-awaited solution had arrived, with Gajewski scheduling his trip to the Tornos factory at Moutier, Switzerland in the summer of 2016.

Christian Barth, product manager at Tornos, provided Gajewski with the tour. After seeing the production and assembly of the spindles and guide bushes, as well as the overall Swiss manufacturing process from design to finished machine, Gajewski realised first-hand the high-quality that goes into manufacturing a highly rigid, stable and precise Tornos CNC Swiss lathe. His visit to Tornos is what gave him the confidence to switch from a rival vendor.

While competitors of Tornos may offer similar style sliding-head lathes, Gajewski says that “everything from the weight of the Tornos machine to the way the spindle is built, gives the Swiss GT13 durability for cutting tough materials, including exotic stainless steels, with no chatter. This is a major win for Minic and sets us apart from our competitors.”

In early 2018, the company made its first Tornos CNC Swiss sliding-head lathe purchase with the Swiss GT13. Just three months later, Gajewski purchased a Swiss DT13. The investment decision was an easy one, as both machines would be equipped with the same sets of tools after the company purchased the Tornos TISIS module.

TISIS machine communication and programming software has been a game-changer for Gajewski’s business. His production engineer, Raul Rodriguez, was able to easily learn the Fanuc control, simply by using TISIS. For example, Rodriguez can put his tools’ data inventory directly into the program file where they are loaded to the control with the part program. TISIS has been so easy to use that Minic has recently purchased the Tornos Connectivity Pack for all of its Tornos machines.

The modularity of the Swiss DT range sold the company on the machines, both of which manufacture connectors and many other small components. Furthermore, the parts handling with vacuum extractor proved a value-added benefit, especially as Minic’s specialty is manufacturing sub-miniature parts. On these two machines, the company can run at higher speeds with beryllium copper, for instance, while still holding tight tolerances.

According to Gajewski, the impeccable surface finish, which was difficult to achieve previously, has now been made possible on his Tornos CNC lathe.

Tornos and Gajewski are both committed to high-quality products. This ethos has facilitated Minic’s growth tremendously and given it the facility to handle parts that could not be processed before. A commitment to quality, design and local service keeps the company investing in more machines.
In July 2019, Minic received its second Swiss GT13 (and third Tornos CNC lathe overall). Moreover, Gajewski is expecting to purchase the new SwissNano 7 in the coming months. It is clear that an entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to consistent quality has paid off for Gajewski, and he looks forward to what the future holds for his long-held relationship with Tornos.

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Machining costs flattened at Gardner Aerospace

As one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of aerospace components, Gardner Aerospace places huge levels of pride in its precision, quality and cost-efficient streamlined manufacturing. It is for these reasons that the company, which has manufacturing facilities around the globe, has opted for cutting-tool support from MSC Industrial Supply Co.

At the Broughton manufacturing site in north Wales, Gardner Aerospace manufactures structural components for aerospace OEMs from a variety of material types. To ensure the most efficient production method, and that a cost-effective solution is integrated into the business, the Broughton facility has in the past 12 months instigated a working relationship with MSC. The introduction of MSC regional applications engineer Stuart Wiezniak to Gardner Aerospace was a decision based upon trust and reputation, with Wiezniak already yielding impressive results for the company at its Hull manufacturing facility.
The new working relationship almost instantly yielded several cost savings and productivity gains as soon as he entered the Broughton site. With MSC’s decades of industry expertise, Wiezniak was recently introduced to a troublesome component that, with an annual production output quantity of 7920, was tying up a turning centre for much of its daily three-shift operation.

The S98 stainless rod-end component with a 30 mm diameter sphere required a considerable material removal rate (MRR) to create a flat on each side in a cost-effective cycle time. However, using the turning centre, the limited rigidity of the Y-axis milling head and the three-jaw chuck clamping set-up created frequent machine alarms and stopped production. To eliminate this error, free-up machine availability, reduce cycle times and cut tooling costs, Wiezniak worked with Gardner to move the process to a Dah Lih four-axis machining centre with a BT40 spindle taper, in the process helping develop a fixture that can hold five parts in a single set-up. The results are reported to be little short of staggering.

The previous set up on the turning centre utilised a 16 mm diameter ball-nose end mill with two indexable inserts, each featuring two cutting edges. This end mill, supplied by one of the world’s leading cutting-tool manufacturers, ran at 3 mm depths of cut with a paltry MRR of 6.64 cm3/min and a feed rate of 246 mm/min. By recommending an alternate machine, a different work-holding configuration and more applicable cutting tools, Gardner Aerospace is now saving more than £37,500 per annum on this one job – and there is scope to bring about an even larger cost saving.

By designing and manufacturing a fixture to clamp and machine five parts simultaneously, and then having the insight to utilise the 4th-axis to rotate the components 180° to generate the flat on the opposite side of the sphere, Gardner is realising massive productivity gains. MSC has been integral in this process and in subsequently reducing manual intervention, increasing productivity and cutting costs.

From a tooling perspective, Wiezniak removed the previous indexable ball-nosed tool and replaced it with a Dormer Pramet 32 mm diameter high-feed end mill featuring five inserts (four edges per insert). Applying inserts with Dormer’s M6330 coating grade, the MSC expert increased the machining parameters beyond recognition. Running the new rough and semi-finish end mill at a 0.7 mm depth of cut and a cutting speed of 180 m/min, MRR leapt from 6.64 cm3/min to more than 50 cm3/min. This outcome reduced the cycle time from 5 minutes 49 seconds per part, to just over 33 seconds.

The strategy applied by Wiezniak utilises the Dormer end mill for the semi-finish process, completing the task with a larger 50 mm diameter button tool. Taking 26 seconds of rough machining with the Dormer end mill and a 7-second cycle with the finishing tool, the total 33-second cycle yields Gardner Aerospace a reduction of more than 5 minutes per part, a significant saving considering the annual quantities required.

Commenting upon the strategy, Wiezniak says: “The first challenge was to ensure machine availability to move the part from the turning centre to a machining centre. From there, we had the freedom to instigate process changes such as the five-part fixture for machining. Devising a platform for rigid machining was the foundation block and, once this was in place, we could look more closely at tooling strategies and subsequent savings.

“The beauty of creating partnerships with MSC is that we have access to hundreds of vendors and more than 120,000 product lines, so we’re not constrained by a single-source tooling supply,” he continues. “As a result, we can ensure the best tool for the application. In this specific application, the Dormer Pramet 32 mm high-feed end mill was the optimal choice for high MRR. For the finishing cycle, the rod-end parts require an 8 mm radius on the flats, so we opted for a 50 mm button tool with four inserts, each with four cutting edges. Running at a feed rate of 622 mm/min with a single finishing pass of 0.1 mm depth of cut, the button tool delivers outstanding surface finishes with tool life of 400 parts per cutting edge.”

Summarising on the savings that have been made on the rod-end parts, Wiezniak says: “Cutting-tool strategies are always a balance of costs versus productivity rates. In this instance, the annual tooling cost increased by £321 per annum to £2678, but we have slashed machine hours by 81% from 724 hours to 141, while the cost per part has reduced from £28 to £23. The saving of £37,542 not only absorbs the slight increase in tooling costs, but improves process reliability, frees-up machine capacity and
man-hours, and enhances component quality. We have exceeded customer expectations with regards to meeting the original objective, while delivering the project goals on-time.”

Referring back to the “equally large cost reduction potential” on this job, Wiezniak adds: “The rod-end parts has two different part families within the 8000 quantity requirement. Some parts require a 24.8 mm diameter bore on the machined flat, while other parts need a 17.46 mm diameter bore. Before the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, we investigated the possible options, trialled several tools and the results already look impressive. However, although we can expect another huge leap in cost savings, we’ve not yet had the opportunity for final approval with these tools. When the opportunity arises, I’ll be certain to deliver even more fantastic results for Gardner Aerospace.”

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Machining progression proves positive at Westin

Celebrating its centenary in 2021, core business at Huddersfield-based Westin Drives centres on the provision of 24/7 service and repair facilities for electric motors and other electro-mechanical equipment. Until recently, any machining required was either subcontracted or limited to a single manual centre lathe.

Five years ago, the decision was made to bring machining in-house to address logistical issues surrounding the company’s low-volume subcontract requirement. With no prior internal machining knowledge, this facility has transformed to what is Westin Engineering today.
Westin Engineering has just taken delivery of its first five-axis machining centre, adding to two turning centres and a vertical machining centre equipped with a 4th-axis, all of which were provided by XYZ Machine Tools.
Initially, these machine investments were intended to support services at Westin Drives. However, the facility developed rapidly and, with strategic acquisitions, Westin Engineering has evolved into a full-service subcontract machinist offering everything from the reverse engineering of single components to volume production for a diverse
range of industries.
“Our primary priorities were milling and turning capabilities, which saw the arrival of the XYZ 1020 VMC with an optional fourth axis,” states Fraser Lynch, director at Westin Engineering. “This allowed us to machine larger bearing housings, while the XYZ SLX 425 ProTurn lathe was ideal for one-off and low-volume turning work to support Westin Drives.”
While these two machines enabled Westin Engineering to support its sister company, the next major move came in 2017 with the purchase of Kenward Engineering, a gear-cutting specialist, followed by the acquisition of general subcontractor, Kingsmith Engineering. These two developments brought with them a need for further machining investment.
“Much of the machining capability of these two businesses was either specialist gear-cutting equipment or dated turning and milling machines, so we needed to invest further, particularly in turning and milling capacity,” says Lynch. “We looked at mill-turn machines, but after speaking with XYZ Machine Tools we decided to acquire an XYZ CT65 LTY turning centre with LNS barfeed capability.
“With a Y axis and live tooling on our two CT65 LTYs it meant we could transfer a lot of work directly to them and reduce the number of operations required from four or five in some cases, down to just two operations maximum,” he continues. “The barfeed allows us to run unmanned throughout the night. During the day, the two machines are managed by a single operator, giving us significant efficiency gains for a vast majority of work. These two machines can achieve the work output of two lathes and two machining centres.”

With the bulk of the turning and milling now accounted for, attention turned to gear cutting. The acquisition of Kenward brought with it several specialist gear cutting, shaping and hobbing machines, but Westin Engineering was looking for greater versatility, especially for one-off or low-volume manufacture where the cost of specialist gear-cutting tooling was prohibitive. Smaller shaft and pinion work could be accommodated on the XYZ 1020 VMC, but larger diameter gears posed a problem. The solution was an XYZ UMC-5X simultaneous five-axis machining centre.
“We discussed our requirement with the applications team at XYZ Machine Tools and through their recommendation, we contacted Don Tyne Gear Systems, a specialist in gear design,” says Lynch. “Their software can generate gear data that can be transferred to our Open Mind CADCAM, allowing the machining of the full tooth form utilising the simultaneous five-axis capability of the XYZ UMC-5X.”
The combination of software and Siemens control on the UMC-5X makes gear design and manufacture almost conversational. By eliminating reliance on highly-skilled personnel, time-consuming calculations and expensive gear-cutting tooling, it meant Westin Engineering could provide a quick response and dramatically shorten lead times for this type of work. A further advantage is that by making use of sister tooling in the UMC-5X tool changer (with up to 60 positions), the machine can run lights out.
“Using standard probing and integrated ‘Smart Machining Technology’ on the UMC-5X we can monitor tool wear,” explains Lynch. “Alternatively we can set the machine to switch to sister tooling after a determined number of teeth have been cut, which ensures production is maintained overnight. All while using standard tooling such as ball-nose cutters.

“We see a lot of potential on the machining side and we’re identifying a lack of supply capability, especially where it involves more than just making to drawing and there is a requirement for engineering input,” he adds. “Our investment is enabling us to cut lead times on work such as this. Partnering with XYZ Machine Tools has additional benefits through their close working relationships with other suppliers, such as Open Mind and Ceratizit. In addition, the ProtoTRAK and Siemens controls bring added flexibility to our work. Throw in the cost benefit of the XYZ machines and it all makes perfect sense.”
This willingness to invest is paying dividends and has helped Westin Engineering to build on its reputation for delivering on its promises. Moreover, the company’s partnership with XYZ Machine Tools goes beyond the simple provision of machining capacity.
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Five-axis investment pays dividends

Significantly reduced machining operations leading to reduced part cycle times, improved operational efficiencies and new business wins are just some of the benefits that Baker Engineering is experiencing from its latest Doosan five-axis machining centre investment.

Mills CNC, the exclusive distributor of Doosan machine tools in the UK and Ireland, supplied Baker Engineering, a precision toolmaker and engineering subcontract specialist based in Derby, with the new Doosan DVF 5000. The machine was installed at the company’s new, purpose-built 8000 sq ft facility in April 2020, where it is being used to produce a diverse range of precision components, as well as specialist tooling, jigs and fixtures for its growing UK and international customer base.
Baker Engineering’s DVF 5000 is the second Doosan machine tool to arrive on site, the first being a new DNM 6700 vertical machining centre, which was acquired in February 2017.
Baker Engineering is a family-owned business established in 2008 that today employs 15 members of staff. The company is ISO9001-accredited and committed to continuous improvement, making regular investments in the latest machine tool and ancillary manufacturing technologies to maintain its competitiveness and strengthen its preferred partner relationships with customers.
A number of CNC machines can be found on site at Derby, including machining centres with integrated 4th-axis units, lathes with bar feeders, and wire EDM machines. In addition to offering precision subcontract machining services, the company has specific strengths in manufacturing aerospace component tooling (such as jigs and fixtures for ground support maintenance); tooling for the measurement and inspection of railway tracks; and tooling used in the power-generation sector.
As a forward-thinking company the decision to invest in the latest five-axis machining technology was a natural one, and had begun in earnest earlier in 2019.

Explains director Adrian Baker: “Multi-axis and multi-tasking machine tools help manufacturers improve their productivity. We’re a company that’s looking to constantly improve; we had done our homework into the technology and could see that an investment in a five-axis machine tool would deliver significant performance benefits. In addition, the investment would send the right signal, externally and internally, that Baker Engineering was focused on the future.”
The key advantages from investing in five-axis machine tool technology were immediately apparent to management and staff at the company and included: the ability to machine complex shapes/parts in a single set-up; the added benefit that ‘one-hit’ machining has on reducing the time and costs involved in set ups; and the ability to improve/maintain part accuracies owing to a reduction in work handling.
“Since the installation of the DVF 5000 we have experienced all of these benefits,” states Baker.
A demonstration of the machine’s capabilities, and its impact on Baker Engineering’s performance, can be seen when machining an electrical housing-type component. Prior to the arrival of the DVF 5000, this part was completed in five separate machining operations with a cycle time of 2.5 hours. However, when machined on the DVF 5000, the number of operations can be reduced to two, with a cycle time of 45 minutes.
“This is typical of the results we have been able to achieve since our investment in the machine,” says Baker.
Prior to making the purchase decision, Baker Engineering investigated the market in order to help identify the type of machine that would “fit the bill”.
“We were pleased with the DNM 6700 vertical machining centre that we bought in 2017 in terms of its performance and reliability, and have been impressed with Mills’ aftersales service and support,” says Baker. “When considering the five-axis machine investment it was natural that we approached them to discuss our requirements.”

The company’s discussions with Mills CNC led to the recommendation of the DVF 5000, which is a best-selling five-axis machine from Mills CNC’s machine-tool portfolio. This compact and rigidly-built machine is said to deliver high cutting performance and machining flexibility. The machine offers full simultaneous five-axis machining capability as well as 3+2 and 4+1 operations. Baker Engineering is predominantly using the machine for 3+2 and five-face machining.
Baker Engineering’s new DVF 5000 features a direct-drive spindle (up to 18.5kW/12,000rpm), linear guides and a 500 x 450 mm work table with 400 kg table load. The machine boasts 40 m/min rapids and was supplied to Baker Engineering with a 60-position ATC, integrated tool measurement and the latest Fanuc 0iMF control.
Since installation at the end of April, the DVF 5000 has been in constant use at Baker Engineering’s facility. As well as it helping the company increase its productivity and efficiency, the machine has also helped win new machining work.
“News travels fast,” states Baker. “On hearing that we had invested in Doosan five-axis machine-tool technology, a new customer made contact asking us to quote on a job. We have successfully turned that enquiry into an order.
“Our decision to invest in the Doosan DVF 5000 has been vindicated,” he concludes. “The machine has significantly strengthened our machining capacity and capabilities. It is fast, accurate and reliable, and represents great value.”
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