Matching machine tool investment to the intended applications is something Crediton subcontractor Adaero Precision Components (www.adaero.co.uk) has done well over the years. The latest addition to its capacity, a WELE AQ1265 3-axis vertical machining centre with Nikken rotary table 4th axis, is no exception.
The provider of the Taiwanese-built machine, sole agent Whitehouse Machine Tools (www.wmtcnc.com), has delivered numerous other machining centres to the subcontractor during the last decade, sourced from Brother, Japan and Akari, Taiwan. So Adaero had confidence this time around in the supplier's advice, despite never having heard of the WELE brand.
The requirement on this occasion was for a replacement to an ageing, 4-axis machining centre that had become unreliable. Mainly, the new machine is devoted to carrying out cycles of relatively low complexity on simple parts, such as large aluminium plates.
A moderate level of investment was appropriate in a machine fulfilling this type of work. Nevertheless, dimensional accuracies of typically ± 0.01 mm need to be held. Furthermore, despite three-quarters of output from the factory being aluminium parts, the machine needed to be robust to perform arduous cutting cycles continuously every day from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm.
David Smith, Adaero's finance manager said, "The WELE met our requirements and cost significantly less than other machines we reviewed.
"Our engineering director Jack Wilson-Hill had visited a Whitehouse customer to see a similar machine in action and was impressed with the rigidity of build.
"The fact that WELE is part-owned by Toyoda, a Japanese manufacturer of top-end machine tools, also pointed to production equipment that was of high quality, added to which the AQ1265 was competitively priced, so we placed the order."
The rationale for opting for a 4th axis was to extend the machine's capability into producing more complex components in the future, if required. More specifically, the rotary table is needed in the short term to drill and pocket-mill lengths of aluminium extrusion on four sides in one hit. Single set-up machining is a goal throughout the entire factory.
The AQ1265 is equipped with linear roller guideways, while every major contact surface is hand-scraped. Featuring a generous specification, it has a working envelope of 1200 x 650 x 610 mm; a one-tonne maximum table load; a two-speed, direct-drive, BT40 spindle to optimise roughing as well as finishing at speeds up to 15,000 rpm; a 40-station tool magazine; and a cutting feed rate up to 15 m/min, with 36 m/min rapids in X and Y, 30 m/min in Z.
Automation drives growth
Judicious use of automation including robotic load/unload around the Crediton factory is another indicator of Adaero's adeptness in matching investment to need. As far back as 2011, the company purchased from Whitehouse a Brother 30-taper, 4-axis machining centre with twin pallet changer. Notably, the 3.4-second pallet change takes place simultaneously with tool change and axis positioning, minimising idle times.
Automation was advanced further in 2014 with the arrival of a Brother multi-level automated storage and retrieval system for 84 machine pallets. It proved ideal for Adaero's high precision, high mix production of hundreds of different prismatic parts in batches ranging from 300-off down to six.
More recently, in 2018 an Akari machine was installed. Capable of long periods of uninterrupted, unattended running, it joined an almost identical cell installed two years previously that has proved highly productive for machining components that fall within its axis travels of 640 x 610 x 680 mm. Both cells are run by a single operator in a second factory unit opened in 2016 on the same industrial estate in Crediton that has doubled Adaero's factory space to 15,000 sq ft.