In the first two days of MACH 2008, orders totalling £500,000 for sliding-headstock CNC lathes were taken by Star Micronics GB and by the end of the show, the figure was in excess of £1 million.
Managing director Bob Hunt added that the high quality of some of the enquiries taken on the stand makes him very optimistic that the final tally of orders as a result of Star’s participation at MACH will increase substantially.
Four of the companies that placed orders were completely new to the technology and another was ordering its second Star lathe in less than a year. The conclusion that Mr Hunt comes to is that, despite decades of unremitting penetration of the turning market by sliding-head lathes, there are still a lot of manufacturers and sub-contractors out there that can profit from adopting this style of multi-axis mill-turning for parts up to 32 mm diameter.
Such companies broadly fall into two categories – cam auto users looking for greater accuracy and one-hit machining to reduce labour costs; and fixed-head CNC lathe users that have begun to realise that sliding-head cycles can be much faster, even on short parts.
The first order at MACH, for an SR-20RIII, was placed on the first day within hours of the show opening by Adam Marshall of Microplus Engineering, Stourbridge; a specialist in centreless bar grinding and CNC turning.
On the same day, Gerald Gosnay, managing director of Hydraulic System Products (HSP), bought an SR-32JN – a machine launched at the show. The 32 mm diameter capacity model will be the first sliding-head lathe to be installed at the Wakefield company.
Pontefract-based Philidas produces automotive fasteners in anything from small batches to millions-off. Fourteen labour-intensive, cam-type, multi-spindle automatics, some over 50 years old, run eight hours a day at the company’s works. However, components are becoming more complex, sometimes requiring five or six separate operations, and competition from the Far East is increasing.
Another sub-contractor heavily involved in supplying the automotive sector is Auto Turned Products (ATP), Northampton, whose technical director, John Dent, placed an order for a second Star SR-32J in under 12 months.
Alan Riley from Newtech High Speed Turning, Widnes, ordered a Star SB-16C at MACH to expanding the sub-contractor’s CNC turning capacity, which until now comprised three fixed-head lathes for producing parts up to 180 mm diameter.
Newtech had identified opportunities to expand existing contracts and win new business in additional markets by focusing on smaller diameter, shaft-type components of greater complexity. The SB-16C will initially be used for production of electrical connectors and catering industry components in batches of from 200- to 100,000-off. Installation of the sliding-head machine will also enable the company to break into the medical industry, in particular the manufacture of orthopaedic components.
Concluded Mr Hunt, “We are particularly pleased to welcome these five new companies into the Star fold. Many of the sub-contractors that became customers back in the 1990s now use Star machines counted well into double digits – firms like Techno Group and Qualiturn in England and Tercet and Bonspiel in Scotland.
Pictured: Adam Marshall (right) of Microplus Engineering agreeing the SR-20RIII order with Star GB’s Midlands area sales manager, Mark Anson.
Author: Andrew Allcock