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XYZ marks 20 years of Prototrak control success in the UK
XYZ marks 20 years of Prototrak control success in the UK
XYZ marks 20 years of Prototrak control success in the UK

XYZ marks 20 years of Prototrak control success in the UK

Added to MTDCNC by XYZ Machine Tools on 23 September 2013

20 years ago this month XYZ Machine Tools launched upon the UK a simple 2-axis CNC called ProtoTRAK.  This new control broke totally new ground in machining technology with its simplicity of use to aid the programming and setting up of lathes and milling machines by a machinist with no prior knowledge of CNC. Such was the ‘ease of use’ strategy applied to ProtoTRAK that after just one day’s training an operator would have sufficient confidence and competence to be able to program a part cycle.

Developed in the USA in the late 80s by Southwestern Industries, such has been the level of success and industry acceptance that some 45,000 ProtoTRAK units have been installed in American job shops and over 14,000 in UK machine shops.  

Southwestern Industries had previously made several approaches to XYZ through a Belgium based American charged with seeking out European distributors for ProtoTrak.  Said XYZ’s Managing Director Nigel Atherton: 'Being so far away we were reluctant to drag someone over the water when we probably had no real interest.'  But very reluctantly, a meeting was arranged around a demonstration that would last no longer than one hour.  Continued Mr Atherton: 'We didn’t need an hour! Based on our CNC experience it took just 10 minutes to realise we should have checked out this CNC earlier as we immediately saw the potential to take our brand of turret and bed mills into a totally different ballpark.  Indeed, it was so right for us that we have never looked back'

What ProtoTRAK achieved for the first time was to allow machinists and potential machinist to easily write a program without G codes, check it with the graphics and run it or track back through the program.  With this ‘TRAK’ capability, it gave a new level of confidence through easily understandable levels of manual control – hence the inclusion of ‘TRAK’ in the branding.  As a result, companies involved in prototyping, pre-production of components and small batch runs had a control solution that was workshop hardened and very competitively priced for an advanced CNC unit dedicated to meet their needs.

Today protoTRAK is available in three levels, EMX as a simple entry level 2-axis milling unit that can have up to 4-axis DRO display as an option.

ProtoTRAK SMX, a 2- or 3-axis CNC having a host of canned cycles and features such as ‘AGE’ (Auto Geometry Engine) profiling function that eliminates calculations and a ‘GUESS’ key to approximate the position of a missing point or intersection.  It also has the ability to perform 3D machining.

ProtoTRAK SLX is the ultimate system as an easy-to-use lathe control system giving manual or full CNC with a host of usable canned cycles to speed up and simplify the preparation of programs over a wide range of components right up to the most complex.

Today, ProtoTRAK controls have moved with the times so are more advanced but retain the original objective of being very simple to program.  For instance, they now have the ability to accept DXF drawings, ISO/G code programs and Parasolid models.  Both the SLX and SMX controls will link to CADCAM or SolidWorks systems.

To which Mr Atherton concluded: 'The ProtoTRAK concept may be 20 years old but has maintained its simplicity of use but with lots of added functionality that has clearly separated XYZ from would be competitive machine tool products.'

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