Young entrepreneur starts subcontracting business with a pair of Hurco machining centres
Shortlisted for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2021 and a finalist in 2020, 27-year-old Alun Cheung attended Farnborough College of Technology and then spent a few years working for a nearby composite components manufacturer. After spells at two contract machining firms, in April 2018 he decided to start his own subcontracting business, SLAC Precision Engineering Ltd (www.slacprecision.co.uk).
At a time when his friends were buying their first houses, Alun used the money he had saved to rent a factory unit in Basingstoke and put a deposit on a Hurco VM5i 3-axis vertical machining centre (VMC). It allowed him to take on work that could be machined within a 457 x 356 x 356 mm working volume and he quickly established a loyal customer base within the aerospace, automotive, medical, and oil and gas industries. Jobs so far have been mainly in aluminium, stainless steel and nylon, although virtually any material can be machined.
Two years later, in May 2020, Alun purchased a larger Hurco VMC, a VM10i with a 762 x 406 mm table, more than doubling his capacity. At the time he was busy fulfilling a contract for a new customer in the satellite communications sector, involving the production of a couple of dozen different, mainly aluminium components in batches of one- to 50-off. Many of the components fitted perfectly in the VM5i and those that were smaller could be fixtured two at a time on the table of the VM10i, helping to cope with the required production volumes.
Today, Alun also offers subcontract turning and shot blasting in addition to milling. It is a combination of skills that allowed him to start manufacturing his own product at the beginning of 2021, a competitively priced end stop for assisting machinists to position parts accurately in a vice on the table of a milling machine. He markets the stops under the trade name, SLAC Workholding, wording that is engraved on each holder by the Hurco machining centres using the capability of the manufacturer's Windows-based control.
Alun commented, "It was the touch-screen CNC system running Hurco's WinMAX software, which offers both conversational and G-code programming, that persuaded me in favour of purchasing their VMCs. Their user interface makes it very intuitive and easy to control for Millennials.
"I had never operated a machine that was so user-friendly from other manufacturers before. However, the consensus among engineers at the companies where I previously worked was that Hurco is the best mid-range machining centre, especially for subcontractors, due to a combination of rigidity, price and the easy to use control.
"I was given the opportunity to visit a subcontractor in Aldershot, where many Hurco machines are in operation. I made my final decision after demonstrations at the supplier's High Wycombe showroom."
SLAC Precision Engineering Ltd has held ISO 9001:2015 quality management accreditation ever since it started operation. In 2019, the company was presented with a Lotus award for sustainability and ethics on the basis of recycling everything that is in use at the Basingstoke factory, from swarf and offcuts to tooling and paper.