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Hurco Supports Growth In Toolmaking And Subcontract Machining
Hurco Supports Growth In Toolmaking And Subcontract Machining
Hurco Supports Growth In Toolmaking And Subcontract Machining
Hurco Supports Growth In Toolmaking And Subcontract Machining

Hurco Supports Growth In Toolmaking And Subcontract Machining

Added to MTDCNC by Hurco Europe Ltd on 26 March 2015
Family-owned RP Tooling in Kingswinford has always been a pragmatic company, targeting business in industry sectors that are buoyant at any given time. The policy has allowed the 33-employee firm to grow quickly, a process that has seen three relocations since its inception in 2005. The latest move, at the end of 2014, trebled the size of its factory to 2,300 m2.
 
Toolmaking was always at the core of the business and within the past couple of years, founders Brett Mitchell and Darren Withers have set up a plastic injection moulding facility. It comprises six Borche presses rated at between 60 and 320 tonnes for low volume, short lead-time production of high value components with a shot weight of up to 1.2 kg. 
 
Half are destined for the automotive industry, either as trim or under-bonnet items on such prestigious vehicles as the Range Rover Sport, Audi R8 Etron, F-Type Jaguar and Ford Ranger. The remainder could be components for anything from medical equipment to lawn mowers to boilers.
 
Underpinning manufacture of the mainly aluminium moulds, which are guaranteed for up to 100,000 parts and are often the bridging tool between prototyping and mass production, are 3-axis vertical machining centres (VMCs) exclusively sourced from Hurco.
 
RP Tooling started buying from this supplier from the outset and by 2010 had installed seven VMCs. That figure has increased to 12 in the last five years and in addition, the first 5-axis model was installed in 2012, a VMX30U. The last two machines, both VMX30Mi models, were delivered directly to the new facility in Kingswinford. They are of the latest Hurco design with enhancements to machine control and connectivity, significantly lower energy consumption and new livery.
 
Frequently, customers mention easy conversational programming at the proprietary Hurco control as a defining reason for buying this make of equipment. In RP Tooling’s case, it is hardly used. Messrs Mitchell and Withers opted for Hurco at the outset due to the rigidity of the machines, which they believed would ensure close tolerance machining of tough tool steels and achieve a good surface finish to minimise hand polishing. 
 
Staying with one make of machine and control has the added advantage that any of the company’s operators can use any machining centre and work can be swapped between them seamlessly. All are networked with CADCAM systems over an impressive 10 km of cabling at the new factory. 
 
Another advantage of machine commonality is being able to operate each new model without a learning curve. The Hurcos are so easy to master that RP Tooling personnel have not taken up the supplier’s offer of training after any of the machine purchases, except for two days to learn how to program and operate the 5-axis model.
 
The other side of the firm’s business is subcontract machining of components around the clock in a variety of material from plastics, resin board and wax to aluminium, mild steel and stainless steel. For this type of work, conversational programming using the WinMax software built into the Hurco controls will be used more and more to take the load off RP Tooling’s CADCAM department.
 
Mr Withers commented on a major improvement, called Ultimotion, in the latest Hurco control whereby cycle times are reduced by up to 30 per cent. It is down to the patented, software-based look-ahead, which uses an advanced algorithm within WinMax to evaluate the component geometry and motion profile of the cutting cycle to optimise and smooth the tool paths. 
 
It is especially beneficial when profiling complex features, reducing manufacturing costs and allowing more competitive prices to be quoted. So great are the advantages that all of RP Tooling’s Hurco controls, even those dating back to 2005, will be upgraded this year with the latest Ultimotion software.
 
Continuing on the software theme, Mr Withers spoke of two other features that the company uses regularly to good advantage. One is the work offset feature, which is useful when running machines unattended overnight and at weekends. Productivity is maximised by fixturing multiple jobs on a machine table, importing the required individual programs and entering additional G-codes to tell the spindle to redatum automatically after each job has finished.
 
Another highlight is the 5-axis software option, NC-Merge, which allows blocks of NC code generated externally to be added to conversational elements created within the control. A typical example of where this is useful is when programming a machine in WinMax to perform simple drilling and tapping cycles and stitching in a 3D engraving cycle created using a CADCAM system.
 
Other initiatives coinciding with the relocation to Kingswinford include the installation of a Mitutoyo CNC coordinate measuring machine in the inspection department. In addition, Haimer heat-shrink tooling from Fenn Tool will be deployed throughout the factory by mid-2015 to raise the accuracy of machining and improve the quality of surface finish, especially of mould tools.
 
There is a six-week order book for moulds at Kingswinford and some two dozen are progressed through the toolmaking department at any one time. The volume will increase as the injection moulding side of the business increases but RP Tooling’s main growth area is expected to be subcontract machining. It currently accounts for about 10 per cent of turnover but the directors hope to grow this proportion to 40 per cent over the next five years.
 
Space exists for another 20 or so Hurco VMCs in the factory and it is likely that some of the next models will be larger 5-axis machines to expand RP Tooling’s scope for 5-sided machining and interpolative profiling of 3D surfaces. 
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