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Helipebs Controls expands its markets with help from XYZ machines
Helipebs Controls expands its markets with help from XYZ machines
Helipebs Controls expands its markets with help from XYZ machines
Helipebs Controls expands its markets with help from XYZ machines

Helipebs Controls expands its markets with help from XYZ machines

Added to MTDCNC by XYZ Machine Tools on 01 June 2016

With a history that can be traced back over 100 years in total, with the past 40 in the company’s current guise, Helipebs Controls has developed a market-leading range of pneumatic and hydraulic cylinders. The past ten years has seen further development of its own products creating a more bespoke business designing and manufacturing these cylinders for the sub-sea oil & gas sector. 

The success of these products saw Helipebs Controls have its most successful year ever in 2015 and as a result it recently received The Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade, having grown its overseas sales by 142 per cent between 2013 and 2015. 'In the past decade, as our reputation for excellent customer service and precision, quality engineering design and manufacturing has grown, we’ve extended our reach into international markets – whether that’s for ‘off the shelf’ products, or highly bespoke applications. We now export around the world and continue to open up new markets and develop partnerships to enhance the business further,' says Ron Tyler Director of Manufacturing & Finance, Helipebs Controls. Not resting on their Laurels, the 60-strong team at Helipebs Controls is embarking on further business expansion targeting customers in many industries, including offshore oil and gas, aerospace, Formula One, pharmaceutical, and wave and tidal energy, where its cylinder technology can provide a competitive advantage. As well as its strong UK business, the company exports to 55 countries/regions, including China, Singapore, Malaysia, Scandinavia and the Emirates.

Helping Helipebs Controls to meet its production requirements has been the ongoing investment in machine tools, specifically a diverse selection from the XYZ Machine Tool range. 'Four to five years ago we wanted to upgrade our existing machining capacity, we didn’t simply want to replace like for like, we wanted machines that would enhance what we could do and to meet specific criteria in terms of machine capability. The XYZ machines, all but one fitted with the ProtoTRAK control system, were totally appropriate for our needs. 
The ability to produce low-volume components efficiently combined with a company that is very supportive of its products gave us the confidence to invest. The first machine we bought, a ProTurn SLX 425 lathe, with a 1.25m between centre length, gave us the confidence that any future XYZ machines would be a safe purchase and would do the work we wanted as soon as they landed on the shopfloor. The addition of the SLX 425 took our existing skills to the next level,' says Paul Perkin, Production Supervisor, Helipebs Controls. 'One of the key features of the ProtoTRAK control that made a significant difference to production at Helipebs Controls was the Traking facility which allows the operator to move through the program by winding the handwheels, this combined with the 3D representation of the part on-screen gives the operators bags of confidence that the machine is doing exactly what they have told it to do.'

Helipebs Controls then quickly added to its stock of XYZ machines with an XYZ TC 320 LTY turning centre becoming its second XYZ machine. This is the only non-ProtoTRAK controlled XYZ that Helipebs Controls has purchased, but the easy-to-use Siemens 828D Shopturn control, with its conversational programming poses no problems. This machine was brought in to replace three older machines, with Helipebs Controls making full use of the milling and 100 mm Y-axis capability of the TC 320 LTY, to machine parts in a single cycle that would have required three operations previously.  'This is an example of purchasing machines that would push our capability and improve productivity and this has been repeated with every XYZ machine we have bought, with each one replacing one or two older machines,' says Paul Perkin.

The next XYZ machine to arrive was an XYZ ProtoTRAK LPM, this lean production machine is a highly versatile machining centre that is being used at Helipebs Controls for a multitude of applications, including a lot of drilling work, again taking work off two older machines. The fact that this machine makes use of the ProtoTRAK control is a distinct advantage as it means that any of the five operators trained on that control can move between it and the other XYZ machines as the interface is exactly the same across all XYZ  LPMs, mills and lathes. The LPM has a table size of 900 mm by 500 mm, 16 position tool magazine and a powerful 11.2 kW, 8000 revs/min spindle, making it highly capable for a variety of work.

These initial machines focussed on smaller components, so next in line were larger and longer parts, this saw an XYZ ProTurn SLX 555 lathe, with 3 m between centres and a 560 mm swing over the gap (900 mm in the gap) installed for turning larger diameter flanges and longer piston shafts. The SLX 555 also has a powerful 11kW spindle with spindle speeds from 30 to 1800 revs/min over two ranges. To compliment the large lathe Helipebs also brought in an XYZ SMX 4000 bed mill with a 1475 mm by 356 mm table size, and a 5.75 kW 40- 5000 revs/min, 40 ISO taper spindle. This machine is not only used for larger milling jobs, it is also employed on some quite complicated work, which is handled easily by the ProtoTRAK control system. The most recent XYZ machine to arrive is another ProTurn SLX 425, this time with a longer, 2 m between centre capability. This machine is enhancing the smaller turning capacity again by replacing existing, older manual machines.

'With six XYZ machines currently in use at Helipebs Controls we are extremely happy with their performance. With skills always at a premium it is important to us that we have five operators that are capable of moving from one XYZ machine to another, irrespective of whether they are mills or lathes, thanks to the ease of use of the ProtoTRAK control. The return on the investment we have made has also been exceptional, with the productivity gains we have been able to make by streamlining manufacturing. We have also developed a great working relationship with XYZ, particularly with Mark Matthews our area sales manager. Mark understands our business and updates us as and when, but only with the new machine developments that he know will work for us,' says Paul Perkin.     

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