Some machining challenges encountered in machine shops require fresh investment in new machine tools and this what happened at
Burnley-based Fort Vale Engineering, a manufacture of stainless steel valves and ancillaries used in the tank container industry for transportation of bulk liquids and gases by road, rail and sea.
The company had been making one particular type of valve for several years in four sequential operations on lathes and machining centres in a lead-time of 24 hours.
To speed throughput and raise profitability, the manufacturer was keen to find a production solution that would see a billet enter a machining platform and a finished component emerge after a much shorter time. Considerable research and trials led to the discovery of the ideal process, which takes just eight hours.
It required the purchase of a Japanese-built Okuma Multus U4000 multi-tasking turn-mill centre with a B-axis milling spindle and twin-opposed work spindles from NCMT (www.bit.ly/3jNRx2m) software in the control and a chip reader to keep track of tools on the shop-floor. NCMT also wrote the program and ran off sample components to prove out the process.
Stephen Maher, process improvement engineer at the Burnley factory, explains: “To manufacture this product in one hit, we needed a turn-mill centre with a long Y-axis movement. This prerequisite was satisfied by the 300mm Y-axis on the relatively compact U4000, saving us having to buy an unnecessarily large and expensive machine."