If you can provide a quality job in sheet metal, why not do the same for precision machined components? And why stop there? That’s the thinking behind Arconia Engineering Ltd’s focus on customised solutions, managing the entire process of design, manufacture, assembly and installation from 12,000 sq. ft. premises on the Tyne Tunnel Trading Estate in the north-east of England.
Set up in late 2008 by Steven Plummer and Tim O’Leary, both experienced engineers, the workforce currently numbers 16, three of whom are apprentices. As well as investing in training, the North Shields-based business invests heavily in state-of-the-art equipment, its extensive plant list ranging from an Amada CNC punch press and CNC press brake to XYZ machining and turning centres. Other on-site capabilities include welding of aluminium bronze, aluminium, carbon steels and stainless steel, as well as fabrication, engraving, polishing, and special coatings and finishes.
The oil and gas industry is a major customer for machined components such as valve bodies and pipe seals, often involving offshore specification stainless steel or super alloys such as Monel or Hastelloy. On the sheet metal side one example of ISO 9001:2008-accredited Arconia’s expertise is a set of four pollution pans destined for an oil rig in Brazil. These pans are designed to catch overspills and vary in size from 4 m diameter to 4 m square. Manufactured from 3 mm zinc-coated steel sheet, the pans and their connecting pipework and fittings have been finished with a three-coat paint system to provide long-term protection from chemicals and offshore conditions.
“We don’t have to depend on anyone as we can make all the components in-house,” says Tim O’Leary. “Our expertise ranges from design work on specialist machinery, to process equipment, product re-design, production, and project management. However, the key to our success is having the right people with the right skills and the right attitude. Typical machined products include couplings, spindles, bushes and axle shafts, while on the sheet metal side typical products include security panels and entry panels manufactured to demanding architect specifications.”
Initially machining was carried out on manual equipment but, says Steven Plummer, “We were getting so many enquiries for CNC-type work that on a recommendation we decided to invest in an XYZ 710 VMC. This vertical machining centre has been here for three years and it’s never been without a job on it. We then bought the first of our two XYZ Compact Turn 52s after we had quoted for a job and received one of the biggest CNC machining orders we have ever had. With customer demand for large batch products continuing to grow, we had to add to our machining capacity by installing a second Compact Turn turning centre, which can also run 24 hours a day as it is fitted with a bar puller and bar feeder.”
Canned cycles and the simple conversational programming of the easy-to-use Siemens 828D ShopTurn control fitted as standard to the 20 hp/5000 rev/min CT 52 means that the entire sequence from drawing to finished part takes the minimum of operator keystrokes. Maximum turning capacity is 220 mm diameter and bar capacity is 52 mm diameter, courtesy of a 61 mm spindle bore. For larger diameter work, however, Arconia has just taken delivery of an XYZ ProTURN SLX 555 CNC/manual gap bed lathe equipped with the proprietary ProtoTRAK control system. This 15 hp/30-1800 rev/min machine has a 104 mm spindle bore and can turn 1.75 m between centres (1 m and 3 m are options), with the latest-generation SLX CNC featuring constant surface speed (CSS) and TRAKING® as standard. CSS is particularly relevant because, as Steven Plummer points out: “We always seek to improve on the customer’s requirement in terms of surface finish because, for example, if a customer is multi-sourcing it’s worth investing extra time and effort to make our products stand out from the rest.”
Designed specifically for prototype and small volume production applications, ProtoTRAK’s ‘plain English’ programming means there is no need for skilled machinists to be conversant with G and M coding. The ProTURN SLX 555 can be operated either in manual mode or under full CNC, combining traditional machining methods with the capability of computer control to save time and ensure consistent results. TRAKING® simply allows the operator to execute a program by turning the apron-mounted handwheels. This boosts operator confidence as the machine will move through the program at that speed, thereby contributing to safe and collision-free machining. Switching between ‘traking’ and CNC automated running can be performed at any time during the machining process.
Arconia’s customer base is extensive and, in addition to oil & gas, takes in mining and earth excavation, heavy automotive, medical, aerospace, security and defence. “We’re very involved with our customers,” says Tim O’Leary, “which means contributing to their designs and becoming an integral part of their production. One of our customers actually began his business in our old canteen, designing the electronics and then popping downstairs to ask us to design and make various components. It’s a multi-million pound company now and we are still involved in the design and manufacturing process.”