Back in 2001 Warrington-based Roant Precision Engineering was a small start-up precision subcontractor, with just a few manual machine tools at its disposal. Working out of little more than a garage, at that time, with limited finances available to invest in CNC equipment, company owner, Darren Chisnall, put his skills to the test by entering the XYZ Machine Tools ‘Edge Challenge Mill Off’ competition in 2002. The challenge was to manually machine a set component, to tight tolerances, using non-CNC equipment and without using any specialist fixturing. His time of 1 hour 22 minutes saw him win the challenge and he opted to put the value of the prize against an XYZ SM3000 turret mill, which is still hard at work for him today.
“Winning that Edge Challenge with XYZ was a significant turning point for me. As part of the Edge Challenge, XYZ demonstrated how quick the same part could be produced using a ProtoTRAK control, from drawing to finished part in 22 minutes. Given that up to this point I had been struggling to be competitive by machining parts manually, that should really have been on a CNC machine, with this knowledge and the arrival of the XYZ SM3000 things became so much easier. I remember one job I worked through the night just to make £100, in effect working for nothing,” says Darren Chisnall. With the SM3000 in place, business and productivity improved and this allowed Darren to make further investments in XYZ machines fitted with the ProtoTRAK control. Prior to starting Roant Precision Engineering he had worked on two XYZ mills and, when the opportunity arose, he was now in a position to buy them. At the same time he took on a former colleague to help with the increasing workload, providing one-off and low-volume precision components to customers in the food processing, chemical, process plant, scientific instrument and analytical instrument sectors. “All of that sounds very grand,” says Darren Chisnall, “but basically we are a sub-contract precision engineering shop and we will work for anybody.”
The confidence and efficiency of the ProtoTRAK mills led to the inevitable replacement of the manual turning capacity at Roant Precision Engineering with XYZ ProTURN lathes. The first of these was an XYZ SLX555 with auto-indexing toolpost, 1.75 metre between centres and a swing of 560 mm over the bed. “This was a strategic decision as we recognised the need for CNC turning and to bring in another ProtoTRAK controlled machine made perfect sense. Added to this was the power and accuracy that the SLX555 added to our capabilities. We quickly added to this with a smaller XYZ SLX355 that allowed us to be more efficient on smaller components, again, this is a very accurate machine and with its 4000 revs/min spindle is also highly capable,” says Darren Chisnall.
Hot on the heels of these two lathes came Roant’s third ProTURN lathe, an XYZ SLX425 with a two metre between centres. This provided the additional capacity that was needed as the business grew and nicely complimented the SLX 555 and SLX 355 machines. As with those, it has proved to be extremely accurate for the low-medium volume between centre and chucking work undertaken by Roant Precision. As a typical precision engineering subcontractor, the XYZ machines with the ProtoTRAK control provide Roant Precision with everything they need and importantly the confidence that every part will be right first time. “When I entered the Edge Challenge I had to think outside the box in order to achieve a good cycle time and achieve the tolerances on the drawing. Thanks to winning that first SM3000 machine we have been able to grow the business into what it is today and having six machines with virtually the same control means that our operators can move from machine to machine with ease. Not only that, with ProtoTRAK we can produce complex parts easily, it is quick to program and makes life easier even with the high skill levels that we have here, it certainly gives us an edge when quoting for work.”
Since Darren Chisnall’s success back in 2002 in winning the XYZ Edge Challenge, and the arrival of the first ProtoTRAK machine, Roant Precision Engineering has developed into a leading provider of specialist one-off and low-volume milling, turning and grinding capacity in the north west of England. Its original location in the ‘garage’ as Darren Chisnall describes it, was quickly left behind, when it relocated to a 2000ft2 rented workshop, then as business continued to grow a second move was called for, this time the business was able to buy its current 5500ft2 premises.
The final word goes to Darren Chisnall: “When we first got the SM3000 we were still in our old garage so we had this old, untidy workshop with a brand new milling machine in the middle of it. One day I had a visit from a machine tool dealer who asked me ‘what have you bought that for?’ My response to him was. If I had a £million budget to spend on machines I would still have bought it, as it was perfect for what we wanted, and the ProtoTRAK control has continued to be perfect for the work that we do. The range of XYZ machines has suited our needs down to the ground as we have developed our business and customer base.”