Having worked for several years at two of Scotland’s leading manufacturers of Bagpipes, Geordie Hunter decided in 2014 that the time was right for him to become his own boss. Epitomising the ‘one man in a shed’ approach, Geordie started his business, Maverick, in a small industrial unit with a manual lathe producing practice chanters, an essential accessory for any budding or experienced bagpipe player. While little known by those outside of the Bagpipe fraternity, the manufacture of practice Chanters is a very competitive market, so Geordie knew he had to be better and different to succeed.
An experienced player himself he put his knowledge to good use to create exceptional Chanters, and added an element of flair by importing multi-coloured wood laminates that give Maverick Chanters their distinctive and unique look. As the only manufacturer of coloured Chanters, Maverick’s reputation grew and sales both in the home market and overseas to countries such as the USA, Canada, New Zealand Germany and Denmark quickly developed. “When I started Maverick it was just me and a manual lathe, which meant I had to sub-contract some of the machining of the metal elements of the chanters,” says Geordie. “This was a disadvantage for me as a start-up company as suppliers needed minimum orders, which impacted on cashflow and meant keeping stock of products that were still being refined and developed.”
With the increase in business it became obvious that further investment would have to be made to keep up with demand, this saw the arrival in May 2018 of an XYZ SLX 1630 ProTURN lathe. The immediate impact of the SLX lathe was that much of the sub-contracted work could be brought back in-house and allowed Maverick to produce what it wanted, when it wanted, with lead times now virtually non-existent for machining parts. With the arrival of this XYZ lathe Geordie was able to expand further by taking on his first employee to help with some of the initial manufacturing processes, such as blocking out the laminate for turning.
“One major advantage of the XYZ SLX lathe is the time it gives back to me, it is the equivalent of having another full-time member of staff, but at half the cost. The ease of programming of the ProtoTRAK control also made product development much quicker allowing new designs to be brought of market sooner. I can download my experience and knowledge into the control in terms of programming and leave the machine running while I get on with something else, whether that is product development, sales or hand-finishing the Chanters ready for despatch, so two jobs get completed at the same time.”
Geordie’s previous CNC experience had all been with G-code, but the move to the ProtoTRAK conversational control system was straightforward. “It’s really simple to use and I can write complicated programs in minutes at the control, I can then check this with the 3D simulation on-screen, which I find very accurate, and the machine is then ready to go.” The time that has been released through the efficiency of the XYZ SLX ProTURN lathe has also allowed Maverick to create new opportunities and expand in other markets. With one eye still on manufacturing to the highest quality for discerning customers, Geordie has turned to another of his passions and is manufacturing components for some of the World’s premium shotgun manufacturers. “Without the SLX lathe I couldn’t have developed the business in the way I have, the sub-contract turning that we are now taking on is growing to such an extent that it almost matches the turnover from the Chanter business, which is great from a business sense as we are no longer reliant on a single market.”
The XYZ SLX 1630 ProTURN lathe is the most compact machine in the ProTURN range, with a footprint of just 2080 x 1000 mm, but within that it provides excellent capacity and capability. Between centre distance is 760 mm and the swing over the bed is 400 mm. The spindle is a 5.75 Kw (7.5hp), 150-2500 revs/min unit with a 54 mm spindle bore to allow longer work to be machined. Control is provided by the ProtoTRAK SLX, which comes with constant surface speed capability and Verify solid model graphics, as well as the unique TRAKing facility that gives the user added confidence by allowing them to proceed through a program using the handwheels to control feed rates. Once happy they simply press cycle start for the control to take over.