A steady increase in subcontract work for the medical industry coupled with the trend towards greater component complexity has prompted Caragh Tool & Die to invest in a fifth Hurco machining centre with 5-axis capability. Off-line programming has also been installed to simulate the proprietary Ultimax twin-screen control system fitted to all of the machines.
Founded in 1982, Caragh employs 80 people at a 2,300 sq m. facility in Galway, Ireland. It provides consultancy and product design optimisation services followed by machining of prototypes and small batches up to production volumes. Typical components find their way into transport refrigeration systems, semiconductor manufacturing plant and gas chromatography equipment. Materials machined include titanium, stainless steel, aluminium and a range of plastics.
In 1998, a separate division called Caragh Meditech was formed to meet the highly specialised demands of the expanding medical device sector. Now accounting for 45 per cent of turnover, its products include parts for ventilators, drug delivery systems, dental apparatus, ophthalmic and orthopedic surgical instruments, manufacturing tooling for various medical products and implantable devices such as stents.
The latest machining centre, supplied through Hurco Europe's sales agent in Ireland, Michael Gannon, is a VMX30S 5-axis model fitted with twin rotary axis table, 15,000 rpm spindle and 24-station tool-changer. Its normal mode of operation is with two linear axes and one rotary axis interpolated while the other two are fixed.
It was in the early 90s that the first Hurco was installed in the factory, a BMC30, which was chosen largely due to its twin-screen, graphics-based control system. It lends itself to easy shop floor programming and is ideal for both experienced and less experienced operators, according to Caragh's engineering manager, Pat Ryan.
He commented, "G-code programming may be better for high volume work or where the part contains complex surfaces, but for prototypes and short runs, conversational programming on the Ultimax is much quicker and more flexible for the majority of jobs. "Speed is of the essence, as set-up time is long compared with total machining time if there are only a few parts to produce, so lengthy programming procedures would reduce profitability."
Shop floor programming is used for 85 per cent of jobs on the Hurco's at the Galway firm, even for producing components with complex contours. The company's CAD/CAM system is used when complex 3D surfaces need machining and where the production of a DXF file, for download to the Ultimax control, is easier than direct conversational programming.
As most of the Hurco machines and controls date back to the 90s, Caragh has opted for an Ultimax off-line programming station. It uses the latest and most capable software that is better for tackling complicated jobs and provides more powerful 3D simulation of the cutting cycle. Around 10 per cent of work is currently programmed off-line using the Ultimax software, and the resulting code runs on any of the machine / control combinations, even the earliest.
"This backwards compatibility is one of the things we like about Hurco controls," said Mr Ryan. "The machines have also proved to be very reliable during three-shift operation over the years."