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    Cube Precision Engineering - Manufacture of Automotive and Aerospace Components

    Black Country toolmaker and subcontractor, Cube Precision Engineering, has installed its largest Hurco machining centre to date, a 3,200 x 2,100 x 920 mm ...Read moreTags: 3-Axis Mill, Dual Column, Automotive, Conversational, NC

    Black Country toolmaker and subcontractor, Cube Precision Engineering, has installed its largest Hurco machining centre to date, a 3,200 x 2,100 x 920 mm capacity, bridge-type, vertical-spindle DCX32. Delivered at the end of May 2012, it is the fifth machining centre from the same supplier to be purchased.

     

    The latest investment follows recent strong business growth, particularly in the manufacture of automotive press tools for producing interior and body components for such famous marques as Land Rover, Jaguar, BMW and Honda. Turnover at the 35-employee firm is expected to increase this year by more than 12 per cent compared with 2011 to £3.5 million.
     
    One recent high-profile job involved completing work on tools for pressing the door outer panels that go into the new, all-aluminium Range Rover (L405), launched at the Paris Motor Show on 27th September 2012. Other press tools machined on the 3-axis DCX include those for producing the wheel arches for the Jaguar F-Type (X152), a new, aluminium-chassis, two-seater sports car due to enter production in 2013.
     
    Mould tools, progression dies and transfer tooling are also produced on a total of 11 CNC machines running 24 hours a day, 5 days a week at Cube's Rowley Regis factory. The larger machines are fitted with multi-axis heads to enable   3+2 axis CNC machining of complex components.
     
    Outside the automotive industry, the Hurco DCX regularly produces aerospace components, including for jet engine research, and machines parts for armoured personnel carriers and tanks. Materials processed range from aluminium through cast iron, Armox, aerospace grade steels and Inconel to D2 and P20 tool steels. Almost all work is for primes and tier 1 manufacturing companies.
     
    Cube's service encompasses proving the tooling it produces on presses ranging up to 4.5 metres / 1,000 tons-force. For the aerospace sector, the company designs and manufactures tooling used in die quench and super plastic forming processes as well as a range of composite materials.
     
    Neil Clifton, one of three director-owners of Cube, commented, "We are one of very few companies in the UK that has invested in the space, craneage and equipment to machine parts to five metres in X and weighing up to 35 tonnes.
     
    "Finish machining of large-size parts was causing a bottleneck, so we opted for a Hurco DCX, as it was economically priced for a machine with over six cubic metres of working volume.  "Despite its size, the machine easily achieves general tolerances of 0.03 mm and regularly goes down to 0.02 mm, with excellent surface finish.  "We also like the fact that the machine comes with a 40-position magazine and automatic toolchanger for BT50 cutters as standard. Such equipment normally costs extra on a machining centre of that size."
     
     
    Another benefit of the machine to Cube is that its operators, already familiar with using the twin-screen WinMax / Ultimax control on the other four Hurcos on site, could move seamlessly onto the identical CNC system controlling the DCX32. WinMax has powerful, conversational shop floor programming capability and a second screen on which a graphic of the part is generated as the cycles are built up.
     
    Mr Clifton says that, in practice, most 3D cycles are prepared off-line from customers' models, imported into Delcam Powershape, via IGES if necessary, and processed using Powermill CAM software.
     
    Changes to a job can require urgent attention, such as alterations to a tool when automotive body parts are not fitting together properly during a vehicle's initial build phase. So prompt programming offline from a revised solid model is essential while the tool is being transported back to Cube.

     

    It is usual for simpler 2D elements of a program to be programmed at the control by the machine operator, however. One of the benefits of WinMax is that such cycles can be easily merged with the 3D cutter paths prepared externally. Previously, such an approach would have resulted in two separate cutting cycles.

     

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    Ayrshire Precision - 2-Meter DCX22 Leads to New Work for Energy Industry

    Few contract machinists in Scotland have a modern, vertical machining centre to match the 2,200 x 1,700 x 750 mm capacity of the Hurco twin-column, bridge...Read moreTags: 3-Axis Mill, Conversational, Energy Sector, NC

    Few contract machinists in Scotland have a modern, vertical machining centre to match the 2,200 x 1,700 x 750 mm capacity of the Hurco twin-column, bridge-type DCX22 installed at the Coylton works of Ayrshire Precision. This was precisely why managing director, Bert Bradford, purchased the machine on spec in February 2011. Since taking the plunge, the company has secured new work in each of its main industry sectors – mining, nuclear and oil / gas.

     
    The first new job to come along was refurbishment of explosion-proof, steel covers for transformers used in coal mines. They are cooled by water flowing through a hollow jacket, the inner surfaces of which need to be roughened to create turbulence and increase heat transfer to the water. These and other plates up to four metres long are machined for the mining sector on the 50-taper DCX22, the larger workpieces requiring two clampings on the 2,100 x 1,600 mm table.

    Forty-metre-long distillation tanks for nuclear waste storage require many large, high tensile steel panels to be machined and 25 such vessels are planned in the UK to cool and make safe spent radioactive material. Ayrshire Precision has won a contract to contribute to this project, which involves not only milling the panels but also drilling large numbers of holes to accept temperature probes.
     
    More recently, 500 mm diameter flanges for the oil industry have been machined cost-effectively on the DCX22, the first such machine to be installed in Scotland, thanks in part to the ability to set up four at a time on the table. Each flange requires milling and drilling of 16 holes. Centres have to be within ± 25 microns, while the tolerance held on a sealing groove is 18 microns total.
     
    All four parts are completed in one hit to minimise tool changes and maximise production efficiency. Moving from one part to the next is achieved rapidly and automatically using the 'work offset' feature of WinMax, the conversational programming software in the proprietary Hurco control system. The same feature can be used for multiple part machining, even when setting up dis-similar jobs for unattended running.
       
    To maximise, flexibility, Bert Bradford bought a universal angle head from Hurco for use on the DCX22, which is proving especially useful for machining internal slots and angled holes. A separate WinMax module was written by Hurco to accommodate this extra facility.
    Mr Bradford commented, "During the MACH 2010 exhibition in Birmingham, Hurco gave a good demonstration of their WinMax-based twin-screen control system.
     
    "We use the menu-driven, conversational programming nearly all the time, as it is so quick and easy at generating cutting cycles for our jobs, which in most cases are relatively simple. Occasionally we will program off-line on our Edgecam system for more complex work.

     

    "The DCX is our first Hurco machine, but our lead programmer, David Torbet, had no trouble picking up WinMax and our other machine operators can use it as well."

     

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    AB Graphic International Increases Efficiency with DCX22

    The world's leading manufacturer of narrow-web label finishing and converting lines, AB Graphic International, used to put out the machining of large plat...Read moreTags: 3-Axis Mill, Dual Column, Conversational, Custom Machinery
    The world's leading manufacturer of narrow-web label finishing and converting lines, AB Graphic International, used to put out the machining of large plates used in the construction of its equipment.  Even though free-issue aluminium, mild steel and boiler plate was supplied to subcontractors, expenditure on machining was in excess of £80,000 per year.
     
    So in July 2009, the Bridlington company installed a Hurco DCX22 bridge-type machining centre and brought the work in-house.  The competitive price of the 2,200 x 1,700 x 750 mm capacity machine means that it will pay for itself within 18 months. Phil Robson, operations manager at AB Graphic, commented, "We machine a lot of ones and twos when producing larger structural plates; 12-off is a big batch for us.  "Rapid set-up is therefore very important for economical manufacture of components.  "We chose the Hurco machine partly because the Windows-based conversational control has the ability to import data files directly from our CAD system, speeding program preparation."
       
    Machine operator Andy Playforth takes up the story.  "Over our network or using a memory stick, I download a DXF file of the part to the Hurco Ultimax CNC and it appears on one of the two screens.  The conversational menu within the WinMax software comes up on the other screen to guide me through the programming sequence.  "I extract all component features and dimensions from the 2D file.  For example, the software will identify all holes of a certain size and put them automatically into the program.  I just need to tell the machine which drill to use. "Similarly, pocket coordinates are entered without having to key them in manually.  Again, I simply specify the mill and the direction of travel and the next part of the cycle writes itself automatically. In this way, the program is quickly compiled.
     
    If a repeat job is being run and design changes have been made since the last iteration of the component, which frequently happens due to AB Graphic continually striving for improved production efficiency, edits to the program are made easily on-screen from notes on the drawing.

    Mr Playforth says that a large aluminium plate measuring, say, 2,150 x 1,500 x 20 mm and containing over 100 features can be programmed in less than 45 minutes at the Ultimax control.  In contrast, the same job would take many hours on a different control on the shop floor, as all parameters would have to be keyed in manually, with a consequent risk of human error and potential for scrapped parts.
     
    He continued, "Having two screens on the CNC system means I can see a graphic of the part created as the program is built up.  It is rather like having a CADCAM system inside the control. "You can get similar software for other controls, but it costs extra and we would need to retrofit different packages to all of the various CNCs on our shop floor to achieve the same functionality."
     
    Another big advantage of WinMax, he says, is that the program stores the position of the part on the table as well as the cutting cycle.  So if the next billet is fixtured in exactly the same place and no edits are required, production can start immediately.
     
    Founded in 1953 by George Burton and now in its third generation of family ownership, AB Graphic employs 180 in Bridlington, nearby Middleton and Baesweiler, Germany.  Over 80 per cent of production is exported.

    It is the company's policy to subcontract out half to three-quarters of component production, according to the workload on its own shop floor.  It was one of the local subcontractors, which operates several, albeit smaller, Hurco machining centres, that recommended AB Graphic source its bridge-type machine from the same supplier.
     
    Installation of the DCX22 was described by Mr Robson as "phenomenal", carried out by "consummate professionals".  Apart from the machine’s competitive price and the benefits of the integrated Hurco control, the other feature that impressed AB Graphic’s production staff was the all-round guarding, allowing aluminium to be milled at high speed without showering chips all over the shop floor.  Other bridge mills they looked at only had fence-type or open guards.
     
    In practice, the machine has proved to be very accurate.  Some dimensional and positional tolerances – hole centres for the path rollers that transport the web, for example – are down to 10 microns total to ensure accurate label production and printing.
     
    Based on the success of the DCX22, when another machining centre on the shop floor had reached the end of its useful life, the automatic choice to replace it was another Hurco, a VMX42m with 1,067 x 610 x 610 mm working envelope.  It is fitted with a Max control, which has all of the Windows functionality of an Ultimax, but without the second screen.
     
    Speed of programming is only one way in which AB Graphic maximises production efficiency.  Both Hurco machines, and indeed seven other machining centres on the shop floor, carry drilled jig plates on the tables to reduce the time needed to locate and clamp components.
      
    Renishaw tool length setting and probing for datuming components and post-machining inspection have been fitted to the Hurcos to ensure that machining starts as soon as possible after the component has been fixtured.
     
    A further initiative has been to work with tooling suppliers to maximise metal removal rates.  Solid carbide cutters are used, mainly from SGS for machining aluminium and Fenn for use on steel.  Mr Robson referred to big improvements that have been made in tooling performance over the past year.  The power and rigidity of the Hurco machining centres helps to extract maximum advantage from this latest tooling technology.

     

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    Quadscot Precision Engineers - Oil and Gas Specialist Moves into 5-Axis Machining

    ​With a BP quality award hanging on its office wall alongside a platinum  award from Cameron Subsea Systems confirming 24 consecutive months' delivery of ...Read moreTags: 5-Axis, 3-Axis Mill, Energy Sector

    ​With a BP quality award hanging on its office wall alongside a platinum  award from Cameron Subsea Systems confirming 24 consecutive months' delivery of zero defect products, Blantyre-based Quadscot Precision Engineers is a leading Scottish subcontractor serving the offshore oil and gas sector.

     
    For its prismatic machining requirements, until recently the company relied on 3-axis vertical machining centres (VMCs) including a Hurco VMX1 installed in 2008 and a 12-year-old VMX42 with Nikken 4th axis.  As part of an on-going investment programme in new plant, two further, larger VMCs were purchased from the same supplier at the beginning of 2010. The objective was to bring the subcontractor's milling capacity more into line with its 1.5 metre by 500 mm diameter turning capability.  One of the new Hurcos, Quadscot's first 5-axis model, was a VMX60SR. It has a 1,525 x 660 x 610 mm working volume, a horizontal rotary C-axis table and a ± 92 degree B-axis head that allows the 36 kW, 40-taper spindle to be positioned within a program anywhere between vertical and horizontal. Renishaw tool and part probing have been fitted to speed set-ups.

    Not only does the machine meet the size requirement stipulated by production director, Jim Smith, but it also allows multi-sided parts and those of complex geometry to be produced more accurately and cost-effectively.  Mr Smith commented, "Some components that previously needed three separate set-ups for milling operations can be produced in one hit on the VMX60SR.
     
    "The faster cycles and reduced handling result in production cost savings of around 30 per cent for some bigger parts. Our customers therefore benefit from more competitive prices and faster turnaround.  "Moreover, tolerances of typically ± 25 microns are easier to hold when not repeatedly refixturing heavy components in different axes; and fixture costs are also reduced.
     
    The other new Hurco machining centre is a VMX50-50t 4-axis model with a 22 kW / 8,000 rpm / 353 Nm CAT50 spindle, the most powerful that the manufacturer offers in its VMX range. The machine also has large axis travels of 1,270 x 660 x 610 mm and was supplied with 3D mould software within the Hurco WinMax programming suite running in the proprietary twin-screen control system.
     
    Jim Smith's partner, sales director Billy Hepburn, said, "A lot of our customers use high performance materials such as Super Duplex, Inconel and Toughmet, which are challenging to machine.  "Having plant like the 50-50t allows us to be more cost-effective when machining tough and exotic metals. The accuracy is there too – we frequently mill parts using 4-axis simultaneous movements to 25 microns tolerance."
     
    The 44-employee subcontractor was set up 22 years ago by a team of skilled engineers and toolmakers with a wealth of experience in precision CNC subcontract machining. Production of subsea Christmas tree parts, down-hole tools and wellhead equipment are particular specialisms. A highly focussed approach to customer service has been fundamental to the development of the company, along with careful selection and purchase of CNC milling and turning machines. Today, it operates from an 8,500 sq. ft. factory on the Blantyre Industrial Estate, a few miles south-east of Glasgow. 
     
    The company is a long-time user of Hurco equipment. Indeed, the first VMC it bought back in 1990 was one of the supplier's KM3P knee mills with Ultimax II twin-screen CNC. Even in those days, the control and programming software was well ahead of its time, allowing Quadscot's machine operators to program parts easily without needing to know or even learn G-codes. Any programming mistakes were picked up from the graphic screen before putting tool to metal.
     
    Jim Smith added, "We have stayed with Hurco equipment over the years largely because of the flexibility of the control system, which has always been much faster than others on the market. That is important to us, as all of our programming is done on the shop floor.  "We looked at a number of 5-axis machines before buying the VMX60SR and even considered a horizontal-spindle, twin-pallet machining centre at one point.  "However, we opted again for the Hurcos due to the combination of the user-friendly control and rigidity of construction, plus the versatility and robustness of the B-axis head design in the case of the 5-axis machine."

     

     

     

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    RST Engineering Ltd - Cycle Times Reduced by Two-Thirds

    ​Founded in 1987 as a mouldmaker and subcontract machinist specialising in wire and spark erosion and manual milling, RST Engineering, Leighton Buzzard, i...Read moreTags: 5-Axis, Moldmaker, Motorsports, Medical, Aerospace, 3-Axis Mill

    ​Founded in 1987 as a mouldmaker and subcontract machinist specialising in wire and spark erosion and manual milling, RST Engineering, Leighton Buzzard, installed a Hurco Hawk 30 CNC mill in 1998 to speed electrode production and other prismatic machining jobs.
     
    It was not until 2007 that the company traded in the Hawk for a 3-axis Hurco VM2 vertical machining centre, taking advantage of automatic tool change to fulfill contracts more economically for increasingly complex aerospace, medical and motorsport components.  Two years later, owner Jason Taylor and his team progressed to 5-axis machining on a Hurco VMX30U machining centre, with very positive results.  It was bought initially to reduce production costs when the manufacture of prototype housings for aircraft on the VM2 moved to large batch runs.


    The circuit board housings are 200 mm square and have to be machined from aluminium billets on six sides to dimensional tolerances within 15 microns.  In the process, over 90 per cent of the material is removed.
     
    When the part was milled on the 3-axis machine, five sides were completed in eight to 10 hours, including repeated manual refixturing.  The part is now machined in around three hours on the 5-axis Hurco.  As only one additional set-up is needed for machining the sixth face, the component is produced in just two milling operations followed by sparking.

    The steel component in the foreground is a fixture that was machined on the VM2 to secure ball bearings for blind holes to be sparked. Commented Mr Taylor, “A really useful feature of the 5-axis VMX is that the aircraft housing and similar, relatively simple cube-type parts can be programmed at the machine on Hurco’s twin-screen Ultimax control.
     
    “This takes a fraction of the time that would be needed on our Vero VISI 3D CAD/CAM system, which is freed for more complex programming.  “A further benefit is that the setter-operator does not have to walk back to the office to edit a program to adjust a tool, for example – it can be easily done on the shop floor using the control’s WinMax software.   
      
    ”He is particularly impressed with the NC-Merge feature within WinMax, which allows complex parts of a program to be generated off-line using a CAD/CAM system and imported into the Ultimax control for the remainder to be completed, taking advantage of the best of both systems.
     
    There are occasions when this strategy allows a more efficient program to be written than would be possible using off-line CAD/CAM alone.  One recent example was a 3D part that needed holes drilled in it after rotation.  They would have had to be drilled straight to depth, whereas pecking cycles were easily added in WinMax.
     
    Other 5-axis jobs machined on the VMX30U include plastic clock parts and a wrist support plate in titanium, both of which required fully interpolative 5-axis machining.  Mr Taylor suggests that while this is useful, allowing RST to take on extra work that it could not have tackled before, the main benefit of 5-axis is to reduce set-ups when machining components on five or six sides.
     
    “Every time you want to mill a sharp corner in a pocket to replace a radius, or drill a hole at a compound angle, it would involve another set-up,” he said.  “This not only adds production cost and risks introducing accumulative errors, but is monotonous for our operators if there are, say, 50- or 100-off to produce.
     
    Automatic 5-axis positioning in-cycle avoids the potential problem of an operator’s attention wandering and the consequent risk of scrapped parts.”
     
    A good example of a contract where 5-axis benefits are considerable is the production of components for high-voltage electrical switchgear.  They were previously produced in three operations but are now machined in one hit on the VMX30U.  In August 2010, 25-off of each of 10 varieties were produced and the customer wants a further 175-off.  That will be 4,000 set-ups saved.
     
    In RST’s case, with its EDM specialism, the 5-axis Hurco machine is assisting in the production of copper electrodes, which are also becoming more complex.  Accuracy of ± 6 microns is easily held on the VMX30U, which Mr Taylor describes as rigid, reliable and repeatable.
     
    In summary, he used the familiar expression: ‘how did we do without 5-axis machining before’.  In his opinion, it is becoming essential to compete for the production of all but the simplest of parts.  These tend to be manufactured overseas now unless volumes are low, in which case there is little money to be made anyway.
     
    He finds that designers these days are constantly using the power of their modern CAD/CAM systems to push the barriers of component complexity, which again dictates a move to 5-axis machining.

     

    Mr Taylor also said that people using 3-axis machining centres should not be put off by thinking that 5-axis machining is too complex.  It took only two days’ training to become conversant with programming 5-sided milling and drilling routines on the Ultimax control.
     
     
     

     

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    BAW Precision Engineering Ltd - Hurco Helps BAW Hit Niche Markets

    ​When BAW Precision Engineering Ltd emerged from the global downturn under new ownership in July 2010, the primary aim for the new directors of the Swanse...Read moreTags: 5-Axis, Custom Machinery, Medical, Aerospace, Automotive, Energy Sector, Conversational

    ​When BAW Precision Engineering Ltd emerged from the global downturn under new ownership in July 2010, the primary aim for the new directors of the Swansea Valley company was to build the order book and re-establish the subcontractors’ prestigious reputation.

     
    The re-emergence of one of Wales leading subcontractors commenced less than a year ago with the introduction of new management, employee training and a lean manufacturing philosophy. These building blocks have been supported with new sales and marketing structure that can now promote the new capabilities provided by the subcontractor’s latest asset, a new 5-axis machining centre from Hurco.
     
    Already boasting marquee customers such as Biomet, The Royal Mint, Honda, Continental Teves, Walkers Foods, Borg Warner and Bosch to name a few, the diverse customer base sees BAW work in the medical, aerospace, automotive, power generation and hydraulic sectors among others. This extensive subcontract expertise is supplemented by an internal department that boasts one of the UK’s few specialist concept to component automation machinery builders. 
       
    With both departments increasingly winning new business, a new machining centre was a necessity. As BAW Precision’s Operations Manager, Mr Andrew Hoseasons comments: “The new ownership and internal developments at BAW has delivered an influx of new business and despite already having 3+2 axis set-ups on our existing machines, we acknowledged that we needed full simultaneous 5-axis capability to drive the company forward. We have identified a need in the marketplace and the new Hurco will be our first step to filling this gap in the market.”
     
    When Pontardawe based BAW entered the market for a new 5-axis CNC machining centre, the fact that the company already has nine Hurco machining centres purchased over a period of 20 years, influenced the decision. As Mr Hoseasons continues: “Despite having an excellent working relationship with Hurco, we still investigated the marketplace to review and consider alternative suppliers. However, we quickly found that the Hurco VMX30U was the most suitable machine for the type of parts we produce. Additionally, our experience informed us that Hurco machines offer exceptional reliability and user friendliness that is matched by excellent performance and productivity levels.”
      
    Emphasising such points, Mr Richard Gunn, Group Engineering Development Manager of RG Tooling, BAW’s development arm, is keen to highlight the immediate impact of the Hurco VMX30U with its integrated Trunnion table. “At present we are machining toolholders for sister company Eurogrind, a manufacturer of standard and bespoke milling and turning toolholders. The simultaneous 5-axis machining has already slashed production times. Previously, our square shank toolholders underwent three individual set-ups that took 10 minutes each. Added to the set-up times were three machining cycles of 15 minutes each, resulting in a complete part time of 75minutes per toolholder. Now, the new VMX30U only requires one ten minute set-up and one 15 minute machining cycle.”
     
    As one of the first jobs on the new Hurco, BAW are delighted with a time saving of 50 minutes. The company initially expected the VMX30U to deliver productivity gains of 25%; however this one job has delivered a saving that has surpassed 60%. This is credit to the reduced set-ups, efficient 5-axis tool paths and higher speed and feed rate capabilities. To put the saving in perspective, BAW machines the toolholders in batches from 10 to 30 with an annual production exceeding 500 units.
     
    Whilst the production times are being cut, Mr Gunn is keen to emphasise the benefit of the new Ultimax control system on the new acquisition, stating: “We have always found the Hurco control system easy to use, but the latest version takes user friendliness a step further. Each function box offers a foot note prompt that tells the operator exactly what to do, making errors difficult to make. From a productivity standpoint, we specified the twin-screen control. This enables us to machine a part with the existing program running on one screen whilst the operator can simultaneously program the next part on the second screen. As the majority of jobs passing through the machine will be small batches of 1 to 10-offs, this will drastically reduce programming times and improve operator productivity, especially as 90% of jobs are programmed on the shop floor.”
      
    “Other features on the Hurco Ultimax control that already benefit us, is the ‘surface finish feature’ that improves cycle times by automatically increasing or reducing speeds and feeds according to the cycle. Additionally, the new control has a transfer plane command that takes the trigonometry calculations out of any programming. It also enables us to merge NC code with intuitive 5-sided conversational programming, further simplifying and speeding up the programming process,” continues Mr Gunn. 
     
    One of the niche markets BAW is targeting is the oil & gas and hydraulic valve sector. The company set this strategy in motion when specifying the VMX30U that was installed in February 2011. The trunnion table with a 420mm face plate accommodates a diverse range of chucks and is ideal for producing complex valve components. As Mr Hoseason concludes: “We identified a gap in the marketplace and acquired the ideal machine for such complex components. This acquisition has enabled BAW to expand its target markets. When we promoted our extended capabilities and new machine at the recent Southern Manufacturing Exhibition, we had a major success winning over 15 new customers and significant orders in the process. Looking to the future, we will be implementing AS: 9100 to get a stronger foothold in the aerospace market. We will also be adding to our plant list – and with immediate impact of the Hurco VMX30U, there is little doubt we will be specifying Hurco machines in the future.”

     

     

     

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    Rutherford Appleton Laboratory - 5-Axis Machining of Space Obervation Instruments

    ​Parts for instrumentation used in space observation, both terrestrial and satellite-based, are machined to tight tolerances on two Hurco vertical machini...Read moreTags: 3-Axis Mill, 5-Axis

    ​Parts for instrumentation used in space observation, both terrestrial and satellite-based, are machined to tight tolerances on two Hurco vertical machining centres (VMCs) at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), near Didcot.

     
    High accuracy is essential, as radio telescopes for which parts are being made, including the ALMA instrument in northern Chile, have to detect high frequency signals in the 95 GHz to 2.5 THz range. Wavelengths are consequently very short and sensitive to dimensional variation in sensing devices.
     
    The latest machining centre in the Millimetre Technology Group’s Precision Development Facility (PDF) within RAL Space, as the Department is known, is a 5-axis Hurco model, VM10U, which was installed in April 2011. Fitted with Renishaw tool setting, the machine was purchased jointly with another department on the RAL campus, ISIS, which conducts research into atomic scale properties of materials using a suite of neutron and muon instruments. Components required for its beamline accelerators also have to be very accurate and are made on the Hurcos.
     
    An example of RAL Space hardware machined on the 5-axis VM10U are components which when assembled form parts for the Broadband Radiometer, destined for launch into space in 2012. The component, machined in 3+2-axis mode from solid aluminium to dimensional tolerances at the micron level, has to be as light as possible. To this end, the core is removed by wire-cutting after milling to leave a 0.8 mm wall all round.
       
    Mat Beardsley, manager of the PDF, explained, "Generally, subcontractors do not like making parts such as this, as the machining strategies take a long time to develop for novel bespoke components.  "Due to the high machining accuracies associated with this type of componentry, it was difficult to find outside suppliers to take on the work, which was a driver for investing in our own 5-axis machine."
     
    Typical ISIS components produced on a Hurco 3-axis VMC, a VM30 installed in the summer of 2010, are tantalum parts for a beamline target, machined using coated solid carbide cutters to accuracies down to 10 microns.  A high surface finish is specified in readiness for when the parts are assembled using a hot isostatic pressing process. This means that a good machined finish is needed after the parts leave the VM30, which is not easy to achieve due to the material's tendency to tear. Machining strategies as well as feeds and speeds for the tooling have consequently been modified within the CAD/CAM system used in RAL Space.
     
    More complicated components for the ISIS target are put onto the 5-axis machine, such as the tantalum flange and cross flow guide that are subsequently pressed isostatically around a tungsten core. The introduction of 5-axis machining has also made huge savings in the manufacturing time of several integral parts for space flight hardware.
       
    Mr Beardsley commented, "Before investing in the Hurco machines, we had used other makes of VMC for more than 10 years and they are still in service. "When the ISIS beamline work came along, however, we needed a bigger capacity machine but we have limited floor space. So we were looking for maximum working volume in the smallest possible footprint and the Hurco VM30 was ideal in this respect [1,270 x 508 x 508 mm axis travels / 2,830 x 2,770 mm floor area].
     
    "The same goes for the VM10U, which also offers a generous machining cube for the space it occupies. So in view of our good experience with the previous 3-axis Hurco VMC, it was the logical choice when we needed a 5-axis machine."

     

     

     

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    Bowtech Products - Hurco's NC Merge Capability is a Big Advantage

    Bowtech Products was established 22 years ago as an importer of products used for underwater applications, but now designs and manufactures its own equipm...Read moreTags: Mill Turn, 3-Axis Mill, Conversational, NC

    Bowtech Products was established 22 years ago as an importer of products used for underwater applications, but now designs and manufactures its own equipment. Exports currently account for two-thirds of turnover, which has helped to double the size of the business over the last five years and was one of the reasons for the company winning the Subsea UK Global Export Award 2012, sponsored by Scottish Enterprise.

     
    Manufacture of components has historically been subcontracted but is gradually being brought in-house to control costs and quality as well as to shorten lead times from weeks to days. Two CNC lathes and a machining centre from Hurco underpin this activity at Bowtech's production facility on the Kirkhill Industrial Estate in Dyce, near Aberdeen airport.

     

    Typical batch size is 100-off, which is now more economically produced on-site, while small runs and prototypes are machined much less expensively than when they were put out to external machinists.  Cameras and LED lights are core Bowtech products, particularly those mounted on remotely operated underwater vehicles. Business is so brisk at present that, so far, efforts to reduce subcontracted manufacture have been thwarted, as internal manufacturing capacity has been consumed by growth in demand. So Bowtech has decided to build a new, dedicated machine shop which will become operational in 2013.
     
    Meanwhile, the Kirkhill unit continues to lead the way within the group in bringing machining in-house. The main activity of the division is production of polyurethane joints that connect submerged electric cables. Manufacture of injection mould tools to make the joints is the province of a Hurco VM1 vertical machining centre, installed in 2009.
       
    Stuart Rowley, Cable & Mechanical Moulding Manager at Bowtech, said, "After I have designed the two halves of a tool, production takes two to three days on the Hurco, whereas lead time was much longer when we had the mould made outside.
     
    "Before we bought the VM1, we looked at a similar machine in operation making mould tools at the Great Yarmouth factory of SEACON (Europe), whose underwater electrical connectors we sell in Scotland.  "We realised that the WinMax software in the Hurco control was ideal for small quantity mould production, due to the powerful conversational programming capabilities. It takes next to no time to master.
     
    "To maximise its effectiveness, we bought the manufacturer's 3D Mold package and practically every other software option."
       
    The success of this first in-house machining venture encouraged Mr Rowley in 2010 to consider making camera and light housings on site, which need a lot of drilled and tapped holes on the ends of round components. The Hurco TMM10 CNC turning machine with 10-inch chuck and driven tooling was the obvious choice, as it is controlled by Windows software that is so similar to the milling version that Bowtech staff did not even need to go for the training that came with the lathe purchase.
     
    Most recently, a Hurco TMX8MY lathe has been added. Of 8-inch chuck capacity, the machine has a Y-axis to allow off-centre cross-drilling of holes and milling of flats, functions that are not possible on the TMM10 machine.
      
    The company tends to pick higher added value work to turn-mill in quantities of up to 100-off. Larger runs, which can be as high as 1,000-off, continue to be subcontracted for the time being. Materials range from anodised aluminium through stainless steel to titanium alloy for the high value end of Bowtech's product range. Accuracies held are typically 0.125 mm total, although some O-ring grooves need to machined to a tolerance of 0.025 mm.
     
    Mr Rowley opted to install Hurco's off-line WinMax programming software on his PC. It arrived ahead of the VM1 and at the outset was a useful facility for self-training. Now it is used to review the next program off-line while a part is being machined on the machining centre or one of the lathes. This approach allows the progression of a live program to be monitored at the machine controls, instead of tying it up programming the next cycle in background.
     
    Mr Rowley continued, "If more complex cutter paths are needed for any particular routine, such as engraving our company logo into the curved surface of an injection mould, we use AutoCAD Inventor to create the design and output it as a DXF file that the WinMax control is able to read directly.
     
    "The big advantage of Hurco's NC Merge capability is that we can program conversationally around the DXF element to generate the complete cycle, without having to use tedious G and M codes. It is surprising how easy it is to do."
     
    A probable next step for Bowtech will be to consider 5-axis machining to address milling of complex titanium components, which have to be machined from the solid, as casting are very costly. Such work also tends to be expensive if put out to subcontract.

     

     
     

     

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    Diamond Light Source - Hurco Cut Cycle Times by up to 60 Per Cent

    ​A workshop servicing one of the UK's leading scientific research facilities, the Diamond Light Source synchrotron near Didcot, has installed new machine ...Read moreTags: 3-Axis Mill, Lathe

    ​A workshop servicing one of the UK's leading scientific research facilities, the Diamond Light Source synchrotron near Didcot, has installed new machine tools from Hurco that cut cycle times by up to 60 per cent.

     
    The Diamond synchrotron produces intense light beams from infrared to X-ray that are sent down experimental stations called beamlines and used for scientific research.  Diamond is used to investigate the structure and properties of materials for a variety of applications including designing new and better drugs, improving engineering components such as aero engine fan blades, and studying archaeological artefacts like those from the Mary Rose.
     
    Supplied in April 2010, the first Hurco VM20 machining center was followed by another a year later, this time a 4-axis machine with a rotary table, at which time a Hurco TM8 CNC lathe was also delivered.
     
    This led to increased spindle speeds able to deploy small cutters more efficiently and higher torque for heavy milling at reasonable feed rates. Working volume has also been made available to accommodate some larger parts that are currently needed for the synchrotron beamlines.
     
    Martin Small, a senior mechanical technician at Diamond, said, "The new Hurco machining centres are very versatile, as the 10,000 rpm spindle allows us to use small cutters effectively.
     
    "For example, we drill arrays of 0.3 mm diameter holes to within four microns positional tolerance on the Hurcos to produce calibration grids.
     
    "Encoder magnet blocks need slot milling to leave a 0.8 mm wall thickness and require drilling and tapping of 1.6 mm diameter holes.
     
    "At the other end of the scale, we recently used a 63 mm diameter face mill to rough out much bigger parts taking up virtually the full metre by half-metre table area of the VM20s."
     
    On all of the new machine tools, productive use is made of solid carbide and indexable-insert tools, because optimum parameters can now be programmed. In addition to increasing feeds and speeds, the Hurco machines also allow finer milled and turned surface finishes to be achieved, down to 3.2 microns Ra in some instances.
     
    Bob Greening, an assembly technician in the workshop, commented, "We program the Hurco machining centres and lathe on the shop floor using the manufacturer's own Max control.
     
    "Its Windows-based conversational software, WinMax, is easy to use as it assists in creating cutting cycles, some of them quite complex, using drop-down menus and touch-screen icons.
     
    "Another advantage is the ability to input DXF files from our CAD department directly into the Max CNC, which then generates the program automatically without the need for any dimensions to be input."
     
    Versatility of the Hurco equipment extends to the variety of materials machined at Diamond, which includes aluminium, copper, zirconium-copper, stainless steel, Inconel, PEEK and ceramic glass.
     
    Mr Small concluded, "We have been impressed with this supplier's machines, which have proved very productive and reliable, as well as being good value for money.
     
    "Hurco's service has also been good throughout, from the original demonstrations through delivery, installation and subsequent service back-up.
     
    "The telephone helpline has been especially good, with prompt answers given to any queries we have had, so that there is minimal downtime."

     

     

     

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    Riteway Engineering - Galway - Hurco Lathe Cuts Production Time in Half

    ​Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in research and development activity at medical device manufacturing facilities around Gal...Read moreTags: Medical, 3-Axis Mill, Mill Turn, NC, Conversational, Great Service

    ​Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in research and development activity at medical device manufacturing facilities around Galway, while the same area in the west of Ireland has also seen a surge in the growth of companies in the biosciences field.

     

    One contract machinist that was quick to spot these trends is ISO 9001:2000-accredited Riteway Engineering, located on the Liosban Industrial Estate in Galway City. To help it take advantage of business opportunities generated by the expanding medical sector, the company has invested in new machine tools, notably from Hurco Europe, and has forged links with NUIG (National University of Ireland - Galway) and GMIT (Galway - Mayo Institute of Technology).
       
    Riteway's specialisms are computer aided design and quick-turnaround manufacture of highly accurate components for the surgical, pharmaceutical and machine automation sectors. Batch size ranges from prototypes to several hundreds-off and over 95 per cent of turnover is currently in the medical sector.
     
    Company directors and equal partners, Chris Murphy and Keith Donnellan, founded the company in 2006 with a handful of manual turning, milling and grinding machines and one customer. They now employ 10 staff and operate wire-cutting and drilling EDM machines, a fused deposition modeller and laser marking equipment in addition to CNC turning and prismatic machining centres from Hurco.  Latest to be installed, in 2009, was a Hurco TMM8 lathe with 8 inch (203 mm) chuck, 12 driven stations in the turret and a short bar magazine for feeding stock up to 52 mm diameter.
     
    "The machine at least halves production time across the turned components we produce, allowing us to make parts less expensively," said Chris Murphy. "It has also allowed us to bring in-house some of the more complex turn-milling work that we previously had to subcontract out."  He commented that tight tolerances need to be held on some parts, often down to ±10 microns, which the lathe accomplishes without issue.
     
    As ever during comparative appraisals of machine tools that involve Hurco products, it was the simplicity and power of the manufacturer's CNC system that was the deciding factor at the time of purchase.  In particular, the Windows-based, conversational control offers consummate graphics support during programming.
     
    Mr Murphy mentioned that the screen graphics are especially important when proving out turn-milling jobs, as rotating components have much more momentum than cutters on machining centres, so there is the potential for heavy collisions if a program is not correct.
       
    It was a contract to produce 500 anodised aluminium carrier plates for transporting stents that led in 2007 to the purchase of Riteway's first of three vertical machining centres (VMCs), a 3-axis Hurco BMC30. The job was too labour intensive to complete economically on the company's 2.5D CNC milling machines and manual mills.
     
    Mr Murphy knew Michael Gannon, Hurco's local representative in Ireland, from contact at a previous manufacturing company and asked him to source a used Hurco VMC for machining the carrier plates. Again, the manufacturer's proprietary control with its conversational programming was instrumental in the selection of this make of machine.
     
    Called Ultimax, the CNC system has, alongside the left hand alphanumeric screen, a second screen on which a graphic of the part being programmed is continuously generated. The facility is useful for checking that the cycles are correct as programming progresses. Mr Murphy, who at the time had no prior experience of using CNC, confirmed that he was proficient with the control in just three days.
     
    Later the same year, a new, smaller capacity Hurco VMC joined the BMC30 on the shop floor. The 3-axis VM1 provided additional capacity for producing prismatic parts at the lower end of the size range. It was followed in 2008 by a similar, 4-axis model fitted with a CNC rotary axis for higher-added-value work, reflecting a trend in the medical industry towards ever more complex components. The latest machine's single-screen Max control is shipped with Hurco's latest WinMax software, similar to that in the Windows-based control on the lathe.  Continued Mr Murphy, "A lot of what we do requires small batch production, so efficiency of programming is very important to us.
     
    "Even though the Hurco controls are quick and easy to use, we only enter data manually around 25 per cent of the time. A majority of input is created in our MasterCam and Vero PEPS computer-aided manufacturing systems and downloaded as DXF files, which the Hurco controls can read directly.  "A big benefit of WinMax software is being able to toggle between conversationally generated code and external data blocks, merging them seamlessly to produce a finished program. We can do similar in the older controls, but it is more time consuming."
     
    Mr Murphy indicated that a point in favour of purchasing Hurco machines in Ireland is that it is relatively easy to find operators that have used them, so when they join Riteway their learning curve is short.
     
    After-sales service, training and support provided by Hurco from its High Wycombe headquarters in the UK are all good, he says, even over the telephone or if a drawing is emailed to High Wycombe for advice as to the best approach to programming.
     
    Riteway is now poised to take its business to the next level. Later in 2011 it will move to premises three times the size of its current unit nearby in the Galway City area. Chris Murphy and Keith Donnellan will take the opportunity to DNC-link all of the CNC machines and gradually increase the company's capacity list with a view to expanding into the computer, automotive, food and aerospace sectors. All of these industries have been serviced in the past but have had to take a back seat due to the concentration on medical work in recent years.
     
    Further Hurco machine tools will undoubtedly form a cornerstone of this new platform for business expansion.