13 June 2012
Beakbane provides guarding and more for Zeeko ultra-high accuracy machines
Machine protection specialist Beakbane is supplying a range of bespoke covers and bellows to protect axis drives across UK machine tool maker Zeeko's range of multi-axis, ultra-precision CNC polishing machines.
Kidderminster-based Beakbane's equipment is already used across many of the Zeeko range of Intelligent Robotic Polishers (IRP) and will be used on all new machines.
Zeeko's machines are used to polish and to control the shape of optics (and other artefacts such as moulds and replacement hip joints) for a wide variety of industries worldwide. Its range of IRP machines includes equipment capable of polishing to nanometre accuracy on parts ranging from 1.5 mm across up to 2.4 m in diameter.
For example, a Zeeko machine is being used to polish and form-correct the first 1.45 m hexagonal mirror segments that will make up the 42 m primary mirror of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Acknowledging its achievements, Zeeko received the Queen's Award for Enterprise 2011 in the Innovation Category.
Beakbane supplies Zeeko with a complete kit of covers and bellows for a machine. Depending on the machine's configuration, this will typically include fabricated telescopic stainless steel covers and supports for the Y-axis drives on the machine bed, welded polyurethane/polyester folded covers for the bridge-mounted X and Z-axes and rubber bellows for the C-axis on the universal head.
Zeeko design engineer Yohann Tessier says: "We provide Beakbane with the machine specifications and drawings and they design and make all the protective covers to go on them. They are really good people to work with and, if we have a problem, they are very helpful in providing a solution."
He says that one of the key requirements for the bellows and covers is that they should be completely waterproof. "We use very precise ball-screw axis drives and abrasive watery slurries to polish the optics. Any leak that let the slurry into the mechanism would create serious performance problems for us."
The bellows and covers also have to operate very smoothly – the axis drives perform to micron accuracy along their full travel length – and the telescopic steel covers have been specially designed to cope with this.
"When the diamond slurry dries, it sets like cement and this can cause the covers to stick. Beakbane has designed a special strengthened mechanism for the telescopic covers that overcomes this problem," adds Mr Tessier.
At a lesser performance-critical level, Beakbane has also come up with a white polymer fabric for its welded bellows (replacing the more normal black finish), so that that splashes of slurry on the covers (the Zeeko slurry is normally white in colour) doesn't spoil the appearance of the machine.
Beakbane has been working with Zeeko since 2001. Other leading UK machine tool manufacturers that use bespoke Beakbane products include Heller and Yamazaki Mazak.
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