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Four Hardinge / Bridgeport XR 1000 VMC’s with five axis capability
Four Hardinge / Bridgeport XR 1000 VMC’s with five axis capability
Four Hardinge / Bridgeport XR 1000 VMC’s with five axis capability

Four Hardinge / Bridgeport XR 1000 VMC’s with five axis capability

Added to MTDCNC by ETG on 21 May 2013

Traditions are being maintained at a leading Midlands based specialist sub-contractor where the latest phase of machine tool investment has seen them maintain a fondness for VMC format machines and supplied from a familiar manufacturer.

Four high specification Hardinge / Bridgeport XR 1000 VMC’s with five axis capability are the latest machinery investments by Whiteley Brooks Engineering Limited, a specialist machining subcontractor renowned for manufacturing and adapting high performance clutch and brake components for F1, high performance sports and rally cars and road vehicles.

Established over 30 years ago the first CNC machine tool the Whiteley Brooks founders purchased was a Bridgeport vertical milling machine with one of the criteria for purchase being the relatively close proximity to Bridgeport’s Leicester headquarters ‘in case we had any breakdowns’.
It has stayed loyal to Bridgeport (and more latterly Hardinge) and today the company has 23 Hardinge / Bridgeport CNC milling centres with the latest XR 1000’s having 5 axis capability, being equipped from new with Nikken 5th axis rotary tables.  This enables maximum productivity in their sub-contracting environment which can be seasonal, necessitating the machine shops having the capability and flexibility to adapt to differing workloads.

'When our founders purchased their first CNC back in the 1970’s it was a quantum leap for the business,' explains Operations Director Joe Reynolds.  'As the machines then offered were very new technology, not unreasonably they were mindful that a local supplier (in Leicester) would be on hand to offer service support so they opted for Bridgeport.   

'We have hardly strayed from them since and once they came under Hardinge ownership we have maintained the loyalty and purchased our machining centres from the new set up as well.'
In the early days Whiteley Brooks worked closely with nearby AP Lockheed working predominantly on braking systems for performance road, rallying and racing cars.  Those were the days of cast iron brake discs.

Twenty five years on, modern day AP Racing Ltd is still Whiteley Brooks major customer working predominantly on competition car clutch systems but also to a lesser degree on brake systems where composites predominate. The experience with the road and rallying cars has also opened the doors into F1 and the company works the most of the major teams – work that Mr Reynolds describes as “challenging but well within our capabilities.'

'But it is seasonal work,' Joe Reynolds adds, 'and we have consciously equipped our three workshops with machines that are that are highly adaptable.  That adaptability embraces manufacturing components for un-manned military security vehicles, general automotive work and increasing amounts of defence and diesel test component manufacture.

'And we maintain our specialisation in high precision and small batches,' Joe explains.
The latest investment in Hardinge vertical machining centres maintains another tradition; 'Verticals have always been best suited to our type of work,' adds Joe 'and the fact that Hardinge machines are upwardly compatible means that even a programme written a few years ago for an older machine is still compatible with the latest machines.  In the early days there was also the matter of space.  We were shoehorned in a bit and the machine footprint is much less than a horizontal.'
That particular issue has been overcome somewhat as Whiteley Brooks now occupies three adjacent machine shops but the tradition in verticals remains.

'We opted for the newest machines because of the high standard specification of the machines and the value they offered.  They have quickly become an integral part of our operations,' he adds.

One of the attractions of the popular Hardinge XR series machines is the inherent high specification.  The XR 1000 VMC’s feature Weiss 40 taper spindle technology which produces exceptional radial and axial rigidity and offers a unique grease replenishment system.  

The construction of the machines is based on an engineered double ribbed machine base and this heavy duty approach is also evident in the low friction linear guide ways, oversize 45mm double-nut ball screws and rugged axis drives. The tool changer has a 30 tool capacity and the machining envelope has a ‘best in class’ working cube with a substantial 1020mm (40”) Y-axis travel. The spindle offers a maximum speed of 12,000rpm giving it a high precision contouring capability.

However, mindful of its reputation for meeting the very highest tolerances, Whiteley Brooks has added further to its machines’ capabilities.

Its preference is for machines equipped with Heidenhain iTNC530 controls which have integral probe cycle software as standard.  Therefore fitting inspection/calibration probes to the machines was a relatively straight forward option.

Renishaw wireless OMP40-2 spindle inspection probes were fitted along with an OTS table mounted tool measurement/calibration touch probe, both linked to the control via an infra-red receiver that is hard wired into the control.

The 5th axis interface added to all four machines was configured to suit Nikken 5AX 200 compact tilting rotary tables on two machines and 5AX 130 tables on the others.

The control parameters through the Heidenheim’s were amended and tuned to ensure that when the rotary tables are activated they function in harmony with the rest of the machine operations.
After installation of the 5th axis interface, it is possible to operate the machines either as 5 axis machines with the rotary table connected or as a standard 3 axis machines if the rotary table is removed or isolated.

'We’ve found these Bridgeport machines to be highly dependable and adaptable in meeting the needs of our environment,' concludes Joe Reynolds.  'As with many subcontractors we often have no idea what is coming through the door tomorrow and as such, an attitude of being ready for anything prevails.

'To maintain that stance we need to be prepared and adaptable and these machines contribute to that.'

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