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Avon Valley Precision Engineering invests in six new Doosan machines
Avon Valley Precision Engineering invests in six new Doosan machines

Avon Valley Precision Engineering invests in six new Doosan machines

Added to MTDCNC by Mills CNC Ltd on 14 November 2014

Market-leading precision subcontract specialist, Avon Valley Precision Engineering Ltd (AVPE), has significantly increased its machining capabilities and capacity over the last 18 months by investing in six new Doosan high-performance lathes and machining centres supplied by Mills CNC.

The new machines - two DNM 400 vertical machining centres (both supplied with 4th-axis units); two Puma 3100 lathes (one equipped with driven tools), and two VC630 5AX universal 5-axis machining centres - were installed at AVPE’s 2,500 sq metre facility in Bristol during 2013, and are being used to machine a range of high-precision complex parts primarily, but not exclusively, for customers in the aerospace sector.

The investment in new multi-tasking machine tools reflects AVPE’s ambitious growth plans for the future and provides tangible evidence of the company’s continuous improvement programme in action.

Continuous Improvement

First implemented in 2011 following a management buyout the year before, the programme is wide-ranging in its scope and scale and demonstrates the company’s commitment to constantly review and invest in its plant, equipment, manufacturing processes and systems, and develop the skills of its people as a route to improving company productivity and performance.

Over the last three years AVPE has experienced a dramatic transformation. Notable highlights include:

• An increase in floor space has helped the company reorganise its manufacturing operations, create flexible manufacturing cells and, as a consequence, improve work flow and production efficiencies;

• Investment in high-performance machine tools and ancilliary equipment, and sophisticated CAD/CAM software has improved quality and helped reduce lead times and operational costs;

• Previously unpredictable MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) business has, through the efforts of senior management in securing LTAs (Long Term Agreements) with customers, become easier to plan, predict and fulfil;

• Investment in multi-tasking machine tools has enabled the company to secure more high-value contracts for machining small series complex, high-precision parts;

• Adoption of Lean Manufacturing and a commitment to Best Practice have helped the company achieve the following accreditations -: AS/EN9100 'Rev C'; ADS SC21 (Bronze); Airbus UK AUK/SA/10101 and Bombardier Global Series 7000/8000

• To combat potential skills shortages and to secure the long term future of the company, AVPE has introduced its own Apprentice Training Programme. (The company reports that 10% of its workforce is undertaking apprenticeship training).

The Doosan angle

Part and parcel of AVPE’s continuing growth and success has been its investment in Doosan machine tools.

In early 2013 the company upgraded its milling capabilities by purchasing its first DNM 400 vertical machining centre. This machine, supplied with a 4th-axis unit as part of the deal, was acquired primarily to machine aluminium interior cabin parts for an aerospace customer.

Says Steve Eccles, AVPE’s Technical Director:

'Our existing milling capabilities were under pressure and couldn’t be relied upon to achieve (consistently) the part accuracies, surface finishes or the delivery times required.

'We researched the market and identified the Doosan DNM 400 as being the ideal machine to meet our requirements.

'The machine’s rigid design and build, its advanced spindle technology, its cost-competitive price and the number of positive endorsements from customers who had invested in DNM machines, all helped in our decision making process.

'We specified the machine with a 4th-axis unit to give us greater flexibility and the ability to machine parts to completion in fewer set-ups and reduced cycle times.

'We were so impressed with the DNM 400’s performance that we ordered an identical model soon after - and this was installed in May 2013.'

Virtually at the same time as the first DNM 400 was being installed at AVPE’s facility, negotiations were well underway regarding the company’s investment in a large-capacity Puma 3100 lathe.

Explains Steve Eccles:

'Puma lathes have a good reputation in the market for their accuracy, repeatability and reliability.

'The Puma 3100 was acquired to increase our turning capabilities, and the model we selected (the Puma 3100LM), had driven tooling (e.g. mill/drill capability) which we knew would give us extra manufacturing flexibility and the ability to machine parts to completion in one hit.'

The Puma 3100LM lathe was installed in April 2013 and AVPE acquired a second Puma lathe (a Puma 3100) in December 2013.

Both lathes are being used to machine a range of metal and plastic parts for aerospace customers e.g.  Pintle Pins (metal) and greasing tools (plastic) etc.

5-Axis technology

It should come as no surprise, bearing in mind AVPE’s focus on multi-tasking machine tool technologies and the productivity benefits they deliver, that the company should investigate 5-axis machining as a route to further improve its performance, and secure additional high-value manufacturing work.

A contract to machine aluminium fuel injection connectors for A380 aircraft ultimately provided the catalyst for the investment.

Says Steve Eccles:

'The reliability and the performance of the (previously purchased) Doosan DNM 400 and Puma 3100 machines, and the positive relationships we had built with Mills CNC during the purchasing and installation process, meant that we included Mills CNC in our 5-axis machine tool research process.

'We were looking for a universal 5-axis machine that could provide us with both 3 + 2 positional and full simultaneous 5-axis machining capability. We wanted the machine to have a good sized working envelope so that we could machine large, small and/or multiple jobs in one set-up...and we needed the machine to be competitively priced and to be available for immediate delivery.

'Against all our search criteria the Doosan VC630 5AX came out on top and in July 2013 the first machine was installed.'

A second VC630 5AX was ordered and installed a few months later.

VC630 5AX machines have a rigid construction, exhibit excellent vibration and heat dissipation characteristics and punch well above their weight. They are able to handle large parts (730mm x 500mm), and are equipped with a 630mm diameter table. (The machines’ table size was a particular strength the VC630 5AX’s had over competitor machines).

VC630 5AX machines use the most advanced level of Heidenhain iTNC 530 control with 1000 block look-ahead contour capability for reliable high-speed machining.

The machines are equipped with powerful, high-torque 12,000rpm 32kW spindles, and feature the dual contact 'Big Plus' face and taper configuration that ensure high accuracy even when rough machining tough and difficult-to-machine materials.

AVPE’s 5-axis machines operate virtually around the clock. They are being used to machine both MRO and small series production parts to exacting tolerances and stringent surface finishes.

To get the most, and the best, from the machines a number of AVPE engineers attended 5-axis training delivered by the CNC Training Academy.

Concludes Steve Eccles:

'Since 2011 AVPE has experienced significant growth.

'By upgrading our machining capacity and capabilities, and through acquiring advanced multi-tasking machine tools, we are stronger and more flexible than ever before.'

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