University installs seven machine tools

After Birmingham City University took the decision three years ago to switch its engineering courses to the new globally accepted CDIO (Conceive – Design – Implement – Operate) educational framework, the need to update its School of Engineering and the Built Environment became paramount. A budget of over £7 million was authorised for the refurbishment of the workshop facilities, of which £1 million was designated for capital equipment that included seven machines from XYZ Machine Tools.

“The CDIO framework is much more practice-based, with students developing through logical steps and being exposed to design for manufacture throughout their time at the university,” says Tony Hayward, programme leader mechanical engineering at Birmingham City University. “This exposure to real-world manufacturing means that we need the facilities to meet their needs, and the workshop investment and exposure to the XYZ machines are all part of that.”
The XYZ machines – a manual lathe, two XYZ ProTURN SLX 355 lathes, two XYZ SMX ProtoTRAK mills, an XYZ 1060HS vertical machining centre and an XYZ CT65 LTY turning centre – were procured after what Hayward describes as an “intense tendering process”.

“Due to the size of the investment, we had to put the machines out to full tender, meaning a large number of potential suppliers could put forward proposals,” he says. “However, the complex nature of the tender, which can be an 18-month process, saw many fall by the wayside pretty quickly. In addition to meeting the technical requirements of the tender, we also needed a supplier that would work with us to develop a relationship – in effect becoming part of our team. XYZ Machine Tools met that requirement.”
Another advantage offered by XYZ is the fact that it has a dedicated educational sales director, John Aspinall, who focuses entirely on supporting schools, colleges and universities. This understanding of the sector’s needs has played a major part in the growth witnessed by XYZ Machine Tools in the segment, with 2018/19 looking to be another record-breaking year. Beyond the initial tender and order, XYZ Machine Tools is also able to provide the ongoing support needed through training for academics and technicians.
Among the key elements of the university’s tender document was the need for the machine control systems to be user friendly.
“The machines will be used by workshop technicians, academics and students alike, so straightforward operation is important,” says Dr James Pring, technical manager at the School of Engineering and the Built Environment. “The commonality of the ProtoTRAK control system across the lathes and mills allows users to switch from machine to machine without any complications. Students have very little time to familiarise themselves with the machines and controls, and they tend to come along needing large numbers of parts to be produced in a very short space of time, so ease-of-use is vital for efficiency.”

Versatility is also highlighted by the ‘TRAKing’ facility on the SLX ProTURN lathes. This functionality allows users to work through a program by winding the electronic hand wheels, with the speed and direction of rotation controlling the movement of the cutting tool through the machining path.
“TRAKing takes the ProtoTRAK control to another level,” says Pring. “It gives us the reassurance that the student is not going to crash the machine due to some potential programming error.”
When the students progress through the course, their work becomes increasingly involved, leading to projects such as designing and manufacturing compressed air powered engines. To reflect this progress, the students then move to machining parts on the XYZ 1060 HS vertical machining centre with its 12,000 rpm spindle, and the XYZ CT65 LTY turning centre with its 70 mm Y-axis configuration.
Once again, ease-of-use was paramount to the university, and here the use of the Siemens 840DSL ShopMill and 828D ShopTurn control systems provide the straightforward, conversational programming capability required.
“The overall package supplied by XYZ Machine Tools, from pre-sale through to delivery, training and ongoing support, provides us with the capacity, capability and confidence to deliver to the new CDIO curriculum,” says Hayward. “In addition, we were provided with tooling vouchers that we can spend as and when needed with Ceratizit UK & Ireland to further enhance the performance of the machines, without drawing on our existing budgets.”
Adds Aspinall: “This project is a great example of how we at XYZ Machine Tools can partner with educational establishments to deliver a solution that meets everyone’s needs. Under our ‘XYZ for Education’ initiative we work with schools, colleges and universities to provide not only machine tools at favourable prices, but the ongoing support that lecturers, teachers, technicians and students require to ensure the workshop functions smoothly.”

The School of Engineering and the Built Environment is a major provider of professionally relevant courses for the property and construction industries, and is dedicated to the teaching of future professionals.
Each course is accredited by at least one of four professional bodies: The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors; The Royal Town Planning Institute; The Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists; and The Chartered Institute of Building. The school’s core activity is educating professionals for a technical, ethical, economic, political and social world where the built and natural environment forms the context for human activity.
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