Two-thirds of Portchester Engineering’s turnover comes from subcontract production of metal and plastic components for the marine industry, shipbuilders as well as offshore oil and gas platform operators being regular customers. To provide additional capacity for machining smaller prismatic parts within a 660 x 356 x 457 mm envelope, the company has added an entry-level Hurco VM1 vertical machining centre to its plant list.
Samantha Morrison, who bought the six-employee company from a family member in 2002, joined the firm in the early 1990s when all of the mills and lathes on the shop floor were manually operated. Now there are three machining centres and the same number of CNC lathes in addition to manual machines. Over the years, the customer base has expanded to include the motorsport and scientific instrumentation sectors.
Located near Portsmouth and due to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, Portchester Engineering tends to produce small batch sizes. 100-off is a large order, with five-offs down to one-offs more usual. So it is essential to set up jobs quickly to maintain profitability, as fixturing and programming often represent a large proportion of total production time.
Hurco’s single-screen CNC system with slimline touch-screen colour LCD uses drop-down menus, conversational programming and scalable graphics to speed program generation on the shop floor.
Commented Ms Morrison, "Compared with the older machining centre that the VM1 replaced, which had a control that required G-code programming, the Hurco MAX control is much faster to program on the shop floor, so less time is wasted getting the job into production.
"Nearly all of our programmes are prepared this way. Only if the component is particularly complex or needs an engraved identification number do we generate the cutting cycles off-line using Vero VisiCAM."
Another aspect of the VM1 that she liked in particular when vetting the machine at Hurco’s High Wycombe showroom was the speed of the machine. The 10,000 rpm spindle option, 19 m/min rapids and BT40 tool change time were all faster than on the previous machine. In addition, the small footprint of 1.8 x 1.6 metres was useful to minimise the amount of space taken up on the shop floor.
A wide range of materials is processed by the subcontractor, from plastics through brass and mild steel to Duplex, stainless steel and titanium. General tolerance is ±0.01 millimetre, which the VM1 easily holds. www.portchesterengineering.co.uk