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XYZ Maximise your manpower
XYZ Maximise your manpower

XYZ Maximise your manpower

Added to MTDCNC by XYZ Machine Tools on 24 March 2014

The drive to take on more apprentices and offer greater choice of vocational training is to be applauded, but the many years in which training has been neglected will leave a major skills gap in engineering for year to come. Therefore, companies need to maximise the available skills and manpower without the burden of adding more training to already stretched resources.

With the XYZ ProtoTRAK LPM machining centre, existing users of the Burlescombe-based machine tool company’s ProtoTRAK controlled milling machines have a distinct advantage over their competitors. Standing for Lean Production Machine the XYZ ProtoTRAK LPM cuts out all of the superfluous features that can be found on conventional CNC machining centres and makes full use of the simplified ProtoTRAK control system. Yet, at the same time it still provides a significant machining capacity with a 900 by 500 mm table, axis travels of 785 mm (X), 470 (Y) and 530 (Z) at rates up to 20 m/min, and the 8000 revs/min (15 hp) BT40 spindle provides enough power for serious machining performance.  

The key to its appeal, though, is the use of the same ProtoTRAK control system that XYZ Machine Tools uses on its two- and three-axis milling machines, in doing this it has created a situation where users of those machines can move seamlessly from one-off and small volume production to medium sized batch type production, with minimal operator training. The simple ability to transfer the programming skills of an operator of a ProtoTRAK controlled milling machine to a vertical machining centre, the existing programs are also fully compatible and transferrable, has many appeals to smaller manufacturers. In particular is the ability to combine the two machines into a cell, operated by a single employee, the financial incentive then becomes highly significant.

'Labour costs and skills availability will always be the limiting factor in the growth plans of small to medium sized companies,' says Nigel Atherton, Managing Director XYZ Machine Tools. 'Typically the cost to employ a skilled setter/operator will be around £24.00 per hour with all of the external costs included. This compares to the cost of purchasing a ProtoTRAK turret mill and a ProtoTRAK LPM vertical machining centre, which based on a seven year replacement cycle, is around £8,000 per year or £4.00 per hour for two machines. So it makes perfect economic sense to maximise that available labour and the XYZ ProtoTRAK LPM allows companies to do that with the minimum of fuss.'

XYZ Machine Tools’ research showed that in addition to skills shortages there were two main obstacles in the way of companies, who are typically ProtoTRAK users, moving on to CNC Machining centres when volumes increased. These are the steep learning curve moving from either manual, or ProtoTRAK controlled machines, to full CNC; and the complexities surrounding the setting of machining centres, positioning workpieces on the table and setting correct datums, etc.

The XYZ ProtoTRAK LPM overcomes both these objections making operating a machining centre straightforward for anyone. The ProtoTRAK control functions exactly like the companies milling machines, using simple, easy to follow, conversational programming techniques. By following the on-screen prompts even complex shapes and features can be programmed in a matter of minutes and, with XYZ ProtoTRAK LPM users have the advantage of a 16 position tool carousel, so multiple machining processes can be carried out in a single program without the need for the operator to be involved. If the job calls for more than 16 tools, these can be pre-set and held next to the machine and the control will halt the cycle, prompt for the tool to be put in the spindle and the process continues. If you want to load multiple parts to the table, no problem, simply tell the control how many and the spacing between them, it does the rest. Therefore, anyone that can program a ProtoTRAK controlled mill can now program a machining centre, as all of the features and conversational programming steps are identical.

Locating parts or fixtures on the table is also a simple process thanks to the use of three datum holes that are positioned to a tolerance of +/- 0.002 mm on the machine table. The fixture plates are then located and clamped in position using the Jergens Ball Lock system, which features a clamping force of 1000 kg with just the turn of an Allen key. When programing the part, all the user has to do is identify which datum point, A, B or C is being used and the control calculates the rest. There is no longer any need to work out fixture offset points, and set up times are greatly reduced. A further advantage is the next time the job is run, if the previous datum point is unavailable due to another job being on the table, the operator simply uses one of the other location points, changes it in the control and ProtoTRAK works out all the changes.

With the XYZ ProtoTRAK LPM then running in automatic cycle the operator is free to oversee a second machine or, to start to program the next job as this can be done without interfering with the program that is currently running. 'The ease of which existing ProtoTRAK users can increase their manufacturing capacity by introducing the XYZ ProtoTRAK LPM eliminates any real objections that they may have had before. Previously, these customers would have had to pass over medium volume batch work to their competitors as they couldn’t compete. Now they can match the productivity of their competitors, and in many cases beat it. We are seeing customers increase their production ten-fold with the addition of an XYZ ProtoTRAK LPM.

'Adding an XYZ ProtoTRAK LPM machine to a cell containing other ProtoTRAK mills will give you free production time as existing operators can set and use both machines at the same time. Operators can be financially compensated for running two machines, as profitability will more than double. As production volumes increase an XYZ ProtoTRAK LPM takes over where the turret mill leaves off, giving you seamless continuity into higher volume production.  Everyone wins,' says Nigel Atherton.

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