Looking at the cuboid aluminium components produced for medical diagnostic equipment by subcontractor AES Precision Engineering, one would think they were milled, drilled and tapped on a machining centre rather than a lathe; indeed they used to be, from sawn billet in two separate operations on a pair of three-axis vertical-spindle machines in a total cycle time of 12 minutes.
However, since April this year, they have been machined complete from round bar in one operation on an Italian-built Biglia B565-YS 6-axis turn-mill centre supplied by UK agent Whitehouse Machine Tools. Program run time has more than halved to 5.5 minutes, accuracy is improved and there is no handling between machines or work-in-progress on the shop floor, significantly reducing the cost of production. Only two turning tools can be found in the machine’s 12-station turret, one for facing the bar end and another for parting-off, the remainder are axially and radially driven tools.
Mark Wilson, director of the family-run subcontracting firm, says: “We asked four potential suppliers to offer a turnkey package based on production of the aluminium medical part. Whitehouse demonstrated the best process in terms of quality, capability and cost on a Biglia lathe at its Kenilworth technical centre.”
Production engineer Trevor Orman adds: “The quality of the Italian lathe is high for this class of machine, costing under £200,000 with tooling. Although tolerances on the medical part are fairly open at 0.1 mm, the Biglia repeats to within microns, which means we no longer have to chase tolerance all day as the temperature varies on the shop floor.
“The machine’s accuracy will also be invaluable for the production of more tightly toleranced components, while its rigidity means that tool wear is noticeably lower than on our other lathes,” he concludes.
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