The consistent supply of high-class components to customers in the petrochemical and power generation industries requires the correct mixture of expert engineering skills and appropriate high-class machining technology – and X-Cel Superturn has both!
With 100 employees - 35 of whom are based on the shopfloor at the company’s Atlas site in Sheffield – the precision machinist has consistently invested in both its workforce and machining capability to maintain an enviable reputation among its blue chip client base.
The latest investments include a Hankook Protec 9NC flat bed lathe (which complement existing Protec 9Ns at the site) and a Hankook VTC140/E vertical turning and boring centre – both supplied by T W Ward CNC Machinery (Ward CNC), the exclusive UK distributor for this Korean machine tool manufacturer.
According to X-Cel Superturn Managing, Director Andrew Taylor, the Hankooks have been installed “along similar lines to all our other machines - to satisfy our continuing demand for extremely well-constructed, ultra-reliable machines that will consistently machine high-value workpieces, many of them being very large and very heavy, day in and day out with utter reliability”.
The rigidity, and therefore accuracy and reliability, of the Protec 9NC is based on its construction using a double-walled and ribbed one-piece meehanite cast iron bed complemented by induction hardened and ground precision slideways for maximum stability and accuracy.
Andrew Taylor adds: “As well as being fit-for-purpose – and rigidity is key in this respect due to the size of the components being processed - the Protec lathe was also, of course, chosen for its cost-effectiveness and, importantly, on the fact that the machine was immediately available from Ward CNC.
“It is usual for customers to place orders on us for certain parts then to want those parts literally within a matter of weeks. Knowing that Ward CNC has an extensive stock of machines, especially large-capacity models, minimises any worries we may have over meeting such demands.”
With an impressive bed length of five metres and a maximum turning length capacity of 3.8 metres (options up to eight metres are available), the Protec 9NC has been installed to machine predominantly steel and exotic components for down-hole tools for customers in the oil industry. These vary in size, often up to four six metres long and weighing up to three tonnes, and are produced in batches of one- to 10-off.
With such large workpieces, machine rigidity is emphasised as critical to the success of the often extended machining cycles, which usually embrace both turning and boring, the latter using a long (up to 1.5 metres) boring bar that is held in the eight-station indexing turret. A steady rest also helps promotes accuracy.
Other notable characteristics of the 30/37 kW main spindle motor machine that appealed to X-Cel Superturn are the 800 mm (254 mm bore) chuck, the swing diameter over the bed and crosslide/carriage of 950 mm and 630 mm, respectively, plus its maximum turning diameter of 950 mm. The machine features a Fanuc 21i-T CNC, which offers semi-CNC manual guidance and teach facility.
“We had no doubt about the machine’s build pedigree and performance capabilities,” says Mr Taylor, “since we have had another two similar models (Protec 9Ns – also supplied by Ward CNC) in use for the past six years on such components.
“We, therefore, also have first-hand experience of Ward CNC’s back-up support on these machines, as well as for our other Ward-CNC supplied and supported machines - four Hyundai Wia LV800 lathes are also in use at the company’s new machining facility at the prestigious Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Sheffield.”
The company’s AMP facility was opened recently in response to a £6 million, three-year contract to supply precision gaskets and sealing rings to a manufacturer of subsea ‘trees’, with the equipment being used to ‘top’ underwater wellheads and control the flow of oil/gas.
X-Cel Superturn was born out of Sheffield Superturn, established in 1983 by Andrew Taylor, as a sub-contract machinist to the food, automotive, steel and petrochemical industries, and X-Cel (GB), founded in 1995 as a supplier of metallic and non-metallic seals to the petrochemical and refinery sectors. The two companies came together officially in 2007 though they had been collaborating for the previous nine years.
“Our policy has always been to invest to succeed,” continues Mr Taylor, “and this certainly applies to our machining capacity. At our Atlas (Sheffield) site, which is served by 10- and 25-tonnes overhead cranes, this includes an array of deep hole borers, CNC lathes, mill-turn machines, up to five-axis machining centres and honing equipment.”
This high-tech armoury is complemented by in-house brazing, shotblasting, component cleaning and marking capability, plus strong relationships with steel stockholders, heat treatment, carbide spraying, hardfacing and grinding specialists. Together, they enable X-Cel Superturn to satisfy every need.
This philosophy was, indeed, also the reason for the most recent Ward CNC-supplied installation of a Hankook VTC140/E vertical turning and boring centre. This is currently being used to machine, in a single set-up, a variety of subsea oil seals on its 1,400 mm diameter table.
With C-axis indexing at 0.001 deg (7 kW motor with programmable feed rate between 0 and 1,200 deg/min) and 18.5 kW (3,000 revs/min) milling spindle motor, plus a maximum turning diameter and height of 1,600 mm and 1,400 mm, respectively, the machine has 24 tool stations (12 each for turning and milling). The cross rail has 700 mm of vertical travel.
The machine’s ability to turn, drill and tap in one-hit the seals – which measure up to three metres diameter and can weigh 1.5 tonnes - has superseded the traditional process of flat-bed turning before being transferred to another machine for drilling and tapping.