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Seeco viewed XYZ as its solution to diversify from sheet metal into Machining
Seeco viewed XYZ as its solution to diversify from sheet metal into Machining
Seeco viewed XYZ as its solution to diversify from sheet metal into Machining

Seeco viewed XYZ as its solution to diversify from sheet metal into Machining

Added to MTDCNC by XYZ Machine Tools on 19 June 2013

The installation of a ProtoTRAK  LPM vertical machining centre supplied by XYZ Machine Tools has enabled a well-established sheet metal and fabrication subcontractor, Seeco (UK), to take its first step into diversification in order to provide a component machining service as part of its expansion plans to create a one-stop production facility from its Bedford headquarters.

With a very strong, active customer base of 60 companies – some with a 25 year trading record, the two directors, Garry Law and George Cunningham have seen a growing trend of requests from customers for them to satisfy a single source for supply of sheet metal components, fabrications and assemblies plus the added service for machined components.

Said Mr Law: 'Last year we made the decision to check out machining centres to meet our initial needs for milled components so we talked to other local machinists on their experiences and found a common denominator which in most cases was XYZ Machine Tools.  Most important to us, in addition to the machine specification, was service and backup plus the initial training to expand our CNC knowledge from a very proficient sheet metal operation into one involving production machining where we could enjoy the same levels of success and not let our existing customers down.'

Indeed, the installation and transition into using the ProtoTRAK LPM VMC could not have been simpler, commented Mr Law, who went on the training course at the Waltham Abbey regional showroom of XYZ.  He said:  'Although I have knowledge of CNC in punching and laser profiling technology and understand the basic fundamentals of milling and drilling from my apprenticeship many decades ago, I went with no preconceived ideas of programming and setting a machining centre and especially tool selection and application of speeds and feeds.  As a result in just 2 ½ days I took onboard the XYZ approach around the ProtoTRAK PMX CNC control which immediately paid dividends when the machine was installed.'

As Mr Cunningham added:  'The machine was installed in January and over the first three months, 70 per cent of the machining that we would have normally put out to subcontract for use in our fabrication work has been produced on the ProtoTRAK LPM.   As a result, we have made savings of around £8,000 – that’s some return on the investment.'  

In addition, Seeco has been able to make a wide range of parts exactly when needed, with a controlled lead time, eliminated any stocking of work, considerably reduced time spent on supplier negotiations and purchasing while bringing quality totally under internal control.

Seeco (UK) has never held back on equipment purchase for its sheet metal and fabrication work.  However, the ability to optimise the process and gain the best return on the investment has always been a key factor in the purchase decision.   The shopfloor in Bedford where recent key machine installations of an Amada EML combined laser and punch press, and an LVD Strippit PPEB press brake with Easyform, are prime examples of this philosophy in support of the customer base drawn from telecoms, data communications, power and electrical, lighting and medical sectors.

The company was originally set up as a general fabricator in 1986 producing transformer cases and on-site electrics based in Kempston.  Fifteen years ago the two directors set up in the current 11,500 sq ft facility in Bedford which now employs 13 people supplying mostly local customers.  Said Mr Cunningham:  'Turnover has increased to £1.2 million – up by a third in the last three years with 2012-13 being our best ever for sales and profitability.'  Some 600 tonnes of material is being processed a year.  And such are the wave riding levels of business that a new customer has just been won that will contribute a further £250,000 a year to sales and another customer £80,000 a year.

Mr Law is now fully up to speed with the ProtoTRAK LPM VMC where machining cycles can involve considerable pocketing in components such as networking panels, heat sinks, enclosures, guide rail and chassis parts up to 350 mm by 300 mm by 6 mm.   Tolerances tend to be held to 0.05 mm in mostly aluminium, mild steel and some stainless steel, with components produced for work that was previously subcontracted and used as his training ground.  'As with our sheet metal machines we treat fully understanding the control and machines almost as hobbies to get the best performance and I must return to the training given by XYZ because it set us on the right course to do this.'

In particular, Mr Law is enthusiastic over the Jergens Ball Lock system for referenced location of fixtures and parts on the table which eliminates any need for playing around with the fixture offsets.  Also with the ability to store jpeg photographs of set ups alongside the program plus any job notes in the ProtoTRAK PMX control, makes resetting so simple.

Batch sizes tend to range from two to three parts up to 300.   However, Mr Law says the ease of setting makes prototype development parts for some customers so easy to incorporate into production planning.  The company uses SolidWorks and SolidCAM across the business and often the same basic model is used for part machining with the ProtoTRAK LPM.   Seeco also use the machine for a dry run when quoting so they can not only initially be very accurate on pricing but also cut any lead time when the parts come to be machined.

From Mr Law’s experience on the machine he maintains the ‘on-screen’ set up check list has proven to be invaluable helping him to grow into the machining experience.  'It pulls you back from missing something and gives total confidence in your setup procedure,' he adds.

The ProtoTRAK LPM has working strokes of 785 mm in X, 470 mm in Y and 530 mm in Z with a 900 mm by 500 mm table.  It is built on a solid cast base with linear guides and 11kW, 8,000 revs/min, BT 40 spindle supported by a 16-station carousel tool change.

The two directors are now set to move forward to provide their subcontract service across both disciplines of sheet metal and machining to meet the existing customer requests for single source supply.  'There is more than enough work from existing customers to keep  the ProtoTRAK LPM fully loaded,' said Mr Cunningham to which Mr Law added: 'From our experiences to date, one man will easily run three ProtoTRAK LPM machines which means we will now be progressively expanding our installations and activities.'

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