The workshop of the University College of London’s Electronic and Electrical Engineering department has been ranked as a leader in that subject in the UK, in terms of research outputs. Supporting that success is a dedicated workshop that designs & manufactures a diverse range of experimental components, from a wide range of materials, for projects as wide-ranging as nano-technology, telecoms, and a recent commission that will see components placed 1000s of feet underneath the Antarctic ice sheet.
To produce these components the workshop has made use of a variety of machine tools, including an XYZ SMX 2000 ProtoTRAK mill and an XYZ SLX1630 ProTURN lathe. These ProtoTRAK controlled machines proved ideal for the varied work that was being asked of the workshop with no two jobs being the same. The simple, straightforward, programming language of the ProtoTRAK control was an obvious choice. Workshop Technician Tom Hamer adds: “The simplicity of the control was perfect for us when we first purchased the XYZ machines four years ago. At that time we had no CADCAM capability in the workshop so, to be able to use the ProtoTRAK to create relatively complex work was a great step forward. However, we were being asked to produce ever more complex parts and recognised that the time was right to invest in vertical machining centre capability.”
Wanting this VMC capability and getting it were two separate things, the biggest obstacle being that when the purpose-built workshop was created, it was located on the sixth floor of the university building and it was already close to capacity in terms of floorspace! “When the workshop was created the planners had the foresight to put in a concrete floor 700 mm thick, so loading isn’t a problem, but getting a machine in there is,” says Tom Hamer. The answer came in the form of an XYZ 2-OP portable vertical machining centre. The small footprint of this machine at of 775 by 1380 mm meant there was no issue in finding a space for it in the workshop, the question was with an overall height of 2520 mm would it fit in the lift and through the doors? This was never going to be an issue for the experienced team at XYZ Machine Tools. A review of the location and the removal of the machine’s spindle motor and other external parts, the installation of the 2-OP was straightforward. Once reassembled it was quickly into production.
“One of the reasons behind choosing the XYZ 2-OP was the increase spindle speed that it gave us. The 6000 revs/min spindle, combined with the eight-position toolchanger has made major improvements in productivity for us. We are also making full use of the Jergens Ball lock system on the machine table, which allows us to quickly position vices with a guaranteed datum,” says John Langdon, CADCAM Technician. The Jergens Ball Lock system provides a simple and speedy method accurately locate work and fixtures on a machine table, with changeover times often less than 60 seconds and repeatable. When, as at the UCL’s workshop lead times can vary from ‘I need it now’ to a few weeks, the ability to switch set-ups quickly and accurately is a great benefit.
For a machine with such a relatively small footprint, the XYZ 2-OP has an impressive machining envelope, with axis travels of 355 by 305 by 455 mm (XYZ) and a table load capacity of 250 kg it can handle a wide range of components, and is more than sufficient for the UCL’s Electronic and Electrical Engineering department where components typically fall within a 150 mm cube size. The XYZ 2-OP, like the UCL’s existing mill and lathe, is equipped with a ProtoTRAK control, in this case the TMX variant of the system. The TMX control features the same easy to use programming language as other ProtoTRAK systems, but at UCL they are making full use of the system’s ability to accept G-code programmes generated on the workshops CADCAM system. “Our experience with the ProtoTRAK on the previous two XYZ machines was very positive and that knowledge and trust in the support from XYZ helped with the decision to purchase the 2-OP. With the demands of the department requiring more complex forms to be machined and the arrival of John with his CADCAM experience we make use of the machine’s G-code capability alongside the ProtoTRAK system as well. Overall the XYZ 2-OP has delivered exactly what we wanted, a compact footprint combined with sufficient machining capacity with a highly competitive price/value ratio,” says Tom Hamer.
The machine installations at the UCL’s Electronic and Electrical Engineering department is another example of how XYZ Machine Tools works closely with educational establishments. Over 200 schools, training centres and universities in the UK have XYZ machines installed, with many of them becoming Educational Partners with the Burlescombe-based company. These partnerships give greater access to training at any of XYZ’s technical centres for lecturers and technicians, full telephone support and the opportunity to attend Educational Open Days. Added to this are the special pricing arrangements for recognised UK universities, colleges, training establishment, schools or research centres, which make XYZ machines and associated equipment more affordable.