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XYZ turning centre makes its presence felt in the manufacture of high quality safety equipment
XYZ turning centre makes its presence felt in the manufacture of high quality safety equipment

XYZ turning centre makes its presence felt in the manufacture of high quality safety equipment

Added to MTDCNC by XYZ Machine Tools on 13 February 2012

Ash Safety has established an enviable reputation for assembling, servicing and hiring out advanced high quality safety equipment, as well as providing City & Guilds-accredited training for users. However, company founder André Beard does not always play it safe, having decided recently to move into the riskier world of manufacturing in a bid to take advantage of the difficult times facing a number of his competitors. He has also invested in test equipment that allows the Honiton, east Devon-based business to assess and certify other companies&rsquo safety products, thereby creating a new income stream as an approved test centre.

Before installing a new XYZ TC 320 LTY turning centre in 2011, various components were being machined on a subcontract basis. This entailed holding stock to avoid problems caused by late deliveries, which impacted on cash flow and also inhibited product design and development. Another influence on André Beard&rsquos decision to begin manufacturing is his determination to boost the skills of his employees, with the longer-term intention of identifying individuals who could eventually take over the day-to-day management of the company.

In this he has been helped by the Business Link High Growth Skills Service, which prompted the implementation of a company-wide appraisal process as well as providing access to a series of free &lsquoworkshops&rsquo. These covered the strategic, financial management and marketing skills that will be needed to take the business forward in the years ahead. Help and applications advice has also been readily forthcoming from XYZ Machine Tools Ltd, although André Beard did rule out an initial suggestion of a lathe and mill in favour of a turning centre equipped with Y axis, driven tooling and 78 mm bar capacity.

The Y axis of the TC 320 LTY, which has a 45 hp main spindle capable of 3300 rev/min, can travel 50 mm above and below the centreline, making easy work of components that would otherwise require separate milling and turning operations. Canned cycles cater for common machining functions such as stock removal against contour, and the simple conversational programming of the Siemens 828D ShopTurn control means that the entire sequence from drawing to finished part takes the minimum of operator keystrokes.

&ldquoI wanted a machine that could complete my components in a single set-up,&rdquo says André Beard. &ldquoOnce the programming and the tooling was sorted, I didn&rsquot want anyone touching the machine &ndash apart from loading a new length of bar &ndash or just standing around looking at it. Despite not having worked a machine tool since my teens, I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve. In fact, as soon as XYZ twigged that I could get my head around the programming of the Siemens control system, they helped me write some of the more difficult programs and the applications people involved have been brilliant.&rdquo

To date the most difficult part to program has been a 74 mm-long brass pawl that is one of six such components used in a safety locking mechanism. There are no turning operations involved and this component would traditionally be classified as a milling job. Instead, it is machined from 1¼ inch/32 mm diameter bar, using driven tools at 90 degrees to the Z axis to drill, ream, pocket, engrave and profile. The original intention was then to part-off in conventional fashion but, as it happens, that&rsquos not how it&rsquos done. Instead an
8 mm milling cutter is used to machine a small tab, leaving just enough material in place to allow what is now a fully-machined component to fall away under its own weight.

&ldquoIf I had opted to mill this particular component, it would have needed someone to be on hand ready to turn the part over, making it a two set-up job,&rdquo says André Beard. &ldquoI can&rsquot spare the people or the time, and that&rsquos why I bought this turning centre. I am an engineer in that I design these parts but I do look at their manufacture rather differently. We program on the machine straight from drawing and then run a graphical simulation to ensure that what we want to machine is going to be what comes out at the end.

&ldquoI fully expect to write off some tooling in pursuit of optimum feeds and speeds, but the cost is insignificant by comparison to what we had been paying to have these parts made&hellipand waiting anything up to 12 weeks for them to arrive. I no longer have to hold up to £½ million of stock and I can make design changes wherever I happen to be. I can download the amended data to a USB and then to the machine control, how simple is that? And I know for a fact that I can set every tool on this turning centre in 15 minutes or less, which is another good reason why I am now looking forward to the installation of a 52 mm bar capacity XYZ Compact Turn 52 LTY with Y axis and live tooling capability.&rdquo

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