Toolmaker keeps pace with automotive market

With its own press shop serving the production facility of a major automotive plant in Eastern Europe, Essex-based Alpine Tools recently entered the market for a new wire EDM machine. Faced with a requirement to manufacture tools for its in-house press operations and various subcontract customers, the company selected a Sodick VL600Q CNC wire-erosion machine from a shortlist of six.

“Our previous wire EDM [not Sodick] was reaching the end of its useful life, so it was time to invest in another,” explains managing director Keith Chetland. “I used an Excel spreadsheet to cross-reference and benchmark six EDM machines. We chose the VL600Q from Sodi-Tech EDM for a number of reasons, notably the 10-year positioning accuracy guarantee, which shows confidence in the technology.”

Since arrival, the machine has been busy with a variety of tasks, including the manufacture of high-precision press-tool punches and dies. Alpine Tools also usesits new Sodick wire EDM to undertake press-tool maintenance.

In addition, the machine serves the company’s subcontract tool-room operations. Here, the company produces fixtures for machining and welding, along with inspection gauges and other tools from materials such as tool steel, stainless steel and even aluminium. These tools end up in sectors such as medical, heating and lighting.

“We’re an independent toolroom so we’ll take on anything that comes through the door,” says Chetland. “The new Sodick gives us greater accuracy, better economy and a somewhat larger working envelope than we had previously.”

He adds: “We’ve not run lights-out yet, but we plan to. It will be nice to go home at night knowing that we’ll arrive next morning and find the machine still running, without stoppages due to a failed wire re-threading operation, for example.”
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