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 VM20
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."