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Hurco machining centres are 30 to 50% more productive
Hurco machining centres are 30 to 50% more productive
Hurco machining centres are 30 to 50% more productive
Hurco machining centres are 30 to 50% more productive

Hurco machining centres are 30 to 50% more productive

Added to MTDCNC by Hurco Europe Ltd on 10 July 2013

During 2011, West Lothian subcontractor, Almond Engineering, invested over £100,000 in a new Hurco machining centre and CNC lathe as well as IT equipment, and increased staff from 20 to 24, including a third apprentice. This year (2013) will see one further machine on the shop floor and two additional people employed. By 2018, turnover will have doubled, according to chairman, Chris Smith.

The Livingston company has continued to grow after a management buyout led by Mr Smith in 2008. Senior personnel remained in place, including managing director, Willie Scott, who started as a miller in 1979 when the subcontract business was formed.

Recent growth has come from winning new business at the light end of the oil and gas sector, as well as from customers in the medical industry who are growing and putting out additional work. Semiconductor firms across the central belt of Scotland, the other main sector serviced, are buoyant as well. Contracts are also received from the ever resilient aerospace industry, for which jigs and fixtures are frequently manufactured.
 
Almond Engineering's business is characterised by production of prototypes and small volumes. Four design engineers are devoted to providing customers with 2D and 3D engineering design input using Creo Elements/Pro (formerly Pro/Engineer) and AutoDesk Inventor CAD/CAM software. Additionally, they are frequently involved in reverse engineering of, for example, legacy items used in semiconductor manufacturing machinery.

With short batch production being the norm, Chris Smith commented, 'Back in 2004, we had a number of manual tool change mills and one vertical machining centre (VMC), but spent more time programming them than actually cutting metal.

'So we looked around for a new machining centre that was quick and easy to program, researching local manufacturers to see what they used.

'Hurco VMCs with their Ultimax twin-screen CNC system stood out as being the fastest for shop floor programming, even of quite complex parts, so we bought one of their VMX42 machines with a one-metre X-axis.

'It proved to be 30 to 50 per cent more productive than the older machining centre, not only because it takes less time to enter a program by manual data input, but also due to the faster cutting feed rates and rapids.'

This early success prompted the purchase a couple of years later of another Hurco, a VM1 for machining smaller workpieces. Around the middle of 2011, a Hurco VMX30 machining centre and an 8-inch chuck Hurco TM8 CNC lathe were added. Installation of the latter was in response to a new, on-going contract from a medical equipment manufacturer that requires a family of 11 parts turned in batches of 20-off. Pre-existing turning capacity on the shop floor was unable to cope with the size of the parts, or indeed the throughput.

Mr Smith points to the user friendliness of the Hurco machines, with staff able to move seamlessly between the WinMax software running in the twin-screen controls powering the two larger machining centres and the single-screen Max controls on the smaller VM1 and the TM8 lathe.

Further upgrades carried out by Hurco have involved fitting Renishaw probing for determining tool length and part position on the VMX 42 and VMX30. The lathe already had a Renishaw tool setting probe and Max Classic control with expanded memory and network software to accept the download of large, CAM-generated programs.

A wide range of materials for a broad spread of 204 customers is machined at the Livingston facility, from Inconel and Hastelloy through steels and aluminium to plastics. Tolerances tend to be tight on most jobs, typically ± 0.01 mm.

Mr Smith, a firm believer in nurturing talent in-house, concluded, 'We have been established for over 34 years and are here for the long term, so we like to have quality people that grow with the business.

'That is why we have a large proportion of apprentices relative to our size – three out of 25 staff.

'It is not easy to recruit good engineers, so training our own has been extremely beneficial for our company.'

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