Apogee Industries has been growing organically for ten years at the rate of 15-25% per year and is getting ready for a step change in productivity when it takes delivery of a DMG MORI NTX 1000 2nd Generation mill-turn centre after the MACH show.
From its factory based Pewsey, Wiltshire the company supplies complex parts to the oil & gas, aerospace, motorsport and defence industries. William Chappel, Director at Apogee Industries says, “We produce components for companies around the world, working in partnership with them to develop a lean and efficiently manufactured product. In every case we need to achieve high quality and accuracy, whether it is a single one off prototype or a production run of thousands.”
Apogee Industries currently utilises 4-axis machining centres and driven tooled turning centres together with a high level of engineering input. Apogee has built a reputation for making complex, intricate and high tolerance parts in exotic materials to an exceptionally high standard. However, the current methodology requires numerous set ups and many bespoke fixtures which take a considerable amount of time and skill. William Chappel adds, “Many of the parts require between four and nine setups along with the associated jigs and fixtures for each operation. The result is an unacceptably low level of overall spindle run time offering very little optimisation and hence resulting in limited output. We anticipate that the increase in productivity by the implementation the NTX 1000 2nd Generation will allow an additional up time of 70%.”
The acquisition of a laser cutting machine at its second factory helped Apogee to realise that automation and advanced production methods could help the growth of the company and enable it to fulfil the customer’s requirements while keeping all aspects of production in house. In one instance, a part that would normally be machined from solid billet was laser profiled first before being machined to its final specification. This not only reduced material wastage but dramatically reduced the production time of each part leading to a cost saving and lead time improvement. Applying this experience to machining helped the company to understand the improvements it would gain from investing in the NTX 1000 2nd Generation.
William Chappel says, “The NTX 1000 2nd Generation will replace four ageing machines and is expected to dramatically increase spindle run time. This is where we gain critical revenue to invest in new equipment. The NTX1000 2nd Generation is scheduled to run our monthly batch requirements through the evenings while the small quantities of complex jobs can be watched and manned during the daytime. In addition to the extra machining time, savings will be made on maintenance, associated running costs and duplication of tooling packages.”
The NTX 1000 2nd Generation has 65mm (an option) through bar capacity and can throw a 430mm diameter by 800mm long billet. It is also equipped with a B-axis head rated at 20,000 rpm (an option), and a 10 station lower turret with a built in motor giving 10,000 rpm. Due to the machines unique capabilities Apogee is able to bring a number of process in house, that it would normally subcontract, from gear cutting, broaching keyways and splines to deep hole drilling and a limited amount of gun drilling thanks to the 7.0 MPa coolant pressure. The automation comes from the addition of a bar feed and in machine travelling work piece unloader, this will allow Apogee to run the machine lights out and unattended, without an operator having to handle components mid production, gaining an extra 60% of production per week.
To ensure quality, repeatability and reliability the machine is fitted with linear scales, a Renishaw probe and tool breakage detection. This allows Apogee to probe in cycle, validate the parts, and update tool offsets automatically before removal from the machining cycle. The advanced systems can also switch to sister tooling if needed, and ensure parts are rejected if there is a tool failure.
William Chappel elaborates, “British manufacturing is based upon high technology. As a company we should always strive to invest in the latest equipment to increase efficiency, productivity and overall value for the customer, this predominately leads to an advanced and automated manufacturing space. The NTX 1000 2nd Generation is the start of this transformation for Apogee.”
Fitted with CELOS®, the NTX 1000 2nd Generation will integrate well with Apogee’s existing job management system. The company will also have the CELOS® PC version enabling its engineers to access drawings, images of the setup and notes and to schedule jobs from the office. William Chappel says, “CELOS® will be very important to us as we work in a dynamic environment where we have to respond very quickly to our customers’ needs and requests. It will enable us to rapidly re-tool and setup for repeat jobs. Previously we had to take immense care on the multiple setups, produce spare parts for each operation and endure an overly high scrappage rate but, with the NTX 1000 2nd Generation, the requirements for jigs and fixtures will be effectively removed and we will be given the ability to manufacture the precise amount of components required.”
“The machine already has a full production schedule on arrival due to on-going projects. Naturally, reliability and service will be of paramount importance and DMG MORI’s transparency in service and repair times as well as the obvious build quality and precision characteristics of the machine is very reassuring.”