When Nigel Houlston founded Carbex Ltd on April 1st2000, the entrepreneur certainly wasn’t fooling around as the date may suggest. With extensive tool manufacturing experience and a determination level to match the expertise, the West Midlands Company has grown rapidly since its inception. Forming the basis for the company’s next phase of growth is the recent arrival of an Anca FX5 Linear tool grinding machine. MTDCNC went to the Brierley Hill Company to find out more.
Eighteen years after the company opened its doors for business, Carbex has evolved its capabilities and services, now offering everything from step-drills, counter bore and countersink drills through to special and standard form milling tools, tool manufacture to customer drawings and also a complete re-grinding service....and much more besides. Gaining a reputation for manufacturing complex form tools and challenging projects those other cutting tool manufacturers may steer away from; Carbex has built an impressive reputation and client base in the Midlands.
Commenting upon the company’s current position, Nigel Houlston of Carbex says: “More often than not, the jobs we do are pretty awkward and challenging. The tolerances are getting tighter and expectations are getting greater, so investment in technology is something we’ve had to do.”
This investment in technology has recently noted the arrival of an Anca FX5 Linear grinding centre. Referring to why the company invested in the Anca, Mr Houlston says: “We bought the Anca for lots of reasons. We like the company set-up. They are local, and if we ever had a problem, I’m confident we would have them straight in to resolve any issues. Furthermore, the machine has a small footprint and we have limited space availability. However, it’s the flexibility that really impresses us, it’s phenomenal!”
Explaining what makes the Anca machine such an impressive investment, Mr Houlston continues: “It’s a really clever machine. There are tools that we would spend hours battling with in the past, this machine has everything in the software that can just program the tools. It’s absolutely genius.” Looking at a longstanding profiling form tool, Mr Houlston states: “Where we have clearance angles at the back of the form tools; we used to do these on the older machines using the tool profile with a DXF file and it would take us hours to get it right. Now, we can do this in the program and in the cycle; the simulation shows us what we’re going to get before we make the tool. That is something we have never had.”
Referring to the programming features on the new Anca acquisition, Mr Houlston says: “The difference between this and what we’ve done in the past is that we used to program jobs on the laptop. With the old machines, it was done on the control panel and to a certain extent; it was a lot of guess work.” On the software system, the Company Director recalls: “Out of the blue, I entered a global sales questionnaire competition on-line. I won the European part of the competition and the prize was two elements of the software, this was the 3D simulator and the Tool Draught package and they work hand-in-hand. The 3D simulator that is on the laptop is where we program tools off-line, so we can have an indication of what we are going to get before we even start to grind. We also have the collision check, which is something we’ve never had in the past. We couldn’t be without it now.”
Discussing the installation of the Anca FX5 Linear, Mr Houlston recalls: “The installation process was unbelievable. The machine arrived on a low-loader on Monday morning and by the Wednesday evening we had tools on the machine and on Thursday morning, we had our first paying job off the machine. Since then, we haven’t looked back. Moving forward, the idea is to have more machines of similar type, so we can train everybody up to provide cover on all aspects of the business. That is the ultimate goal and with just one new machine and one software seat and control, it is difficult at present as the other lads are only trained on the other machine tools.”
Highlighting key features of the new Anca machine: “One thing we like is the way we are prepping the grinding wheels. In the old days, we were dry dressing and hand measuring everything. With this machine, the wheels are dressed in-cycle and in the oil inside the machine. Additionally, the wheel is inspected with a probe. The difference that makes to the finished tool and how quickly you can get to that finished item is unbelievable.”
From a programming perspective, the fact that tools can be programmed off-line whilst the machine is running a batch of tools is creating significant savings for Carbex. With programming times varying from 20 minutes to over 1 hour depending upon the complexity of the tool, the machine and its software is making huge time and labour savings. “The machine is fast, efficient and it sounds nice when it is grinding. The quality of the tools and the surface finish of the tools are certainly better and we have definitely stepped up a level with this investment.”
Published by ANCA CNC Machines 30 October 2018
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