Worcester-based Joy Mining has taken delivery of a 5-axis Soraluce SP 8000 travelling column (bed-type) universal milling/machining centre from T W Ward CNC Machinery (0114 276 5411). The machine has replaced an ageing Butler Elgamill CNC universal bed mill, which was used to machine castings, as well as flame-cut large plates. Image: The expertise of the setters/operators is key in exploiting this Soraluce to maximum advantage at Joy Mining A key feature of the company's work, of which 80% is exported, is small batch manufacture parts, requiring complex machining cycles – batches rarely exceed four-off. The expertise of its production engineers is key in delivering such parts competitively. As Robert Wilks, production engineering manager, explains: "Because much of our work is small batch and very diversified, the extensive skills of our setters and operators are key to not only running the machines, but also for tooling up, programming and for taking complete responsibility for the manufacturing tasks." And in searching for a new replacement machine tool, Joy Mining was adamant it had to allow the company to gain maximum advantage from the strength of its skill base. Installed in September, the Soraluce SP 8000 has halved cycle times and reduced tool costs on the castings and plates, while its ability to produce other components, such as large gearbox housings, has also been exploited. The machine's Heidenhain iTNC530 with conversational interface provides the two setter/operators that man the Soraluce around the clock with an ideal solution to prepare and program the next scheduled component while the machine works through the existing product cycle. Says day shift operator Ean Stamp: "As cycle times vary between one hour to two days (four shifts), we have ample time to work together and incorporate our machining experience in planning the next task, while overseeing the cycle that's being run. This may not achieve the fastest cycle time, but ensures the part fully conforms to requirements." Based on a 50-acre site, the 250-employee company produces components for armoured face conveyors, large gear cases, sprocket ring gears, framed components for powered roof assemblies and hydraulic rams, as well as performs assembly tasks on a range of large valves. As part of the justification, Ward CNC had to ensure the machine met the specific requirements of Joy Mining's management team against five other competitor machine suppliers. In addition, other key elements in the selection, justification and purchase of the machine included its ability to operate in a self-contained, cell-type environment, as well as the pedigree of the builder and the supplier's proven service record. With all other areas satisfied, the final hurdle was machining trials, carried out at Soraluce's HQ in Spain. As part of the buying process, Soraluce had to satisfy the machining demands of samples of Hardox high strength and impact abrasion resistant steel plate (425 to 475 BHN) – a material that is widely used in coal face conveyor machinery. DEMONSTRATED SAVINGS Since installation, the machine has demonstrated overall savings of some 50% on milling and, in particular, drilling cycles, plus provided a significant reduction in tool costs, as a result of its inherent rigidity. Says Mr Wilks: "We very rarely have to change inserts, which is helping our tool inventory and costs." A key feature of the machine is its use of the BT50 Big Plus patented spindle system. This has enabled Seco's latest Performax indexable insert drills (01789 764341) to be used for the first time as a test bed for the tooling supplier. Holes in brackets between 10 and 70 mm diameter, and bores up to 90 mm diameter have been produced from solid, employing the 20-bar through-the-tool coolant pressure. The SP 8000 also features adaptive feed control, DXF download and dynamic collision monitoring, plus Renishaw non-contact laser probing. Overall, the Soraluce has achieved uptime of 80% - 75% was the target. From one company steeped in the energy sector to another that is a more recent entrant. When the newspaper printing industry began its inexorable decline, Preston-based Printing Press Services International needed to find new markets, like oil and gas, and is exploiting the capabilities of its Mazak machines (01905 755755). Set up in 1967 by Joe McManamon, a veteran of Fleet Street, it primarily repaired and overhauled printing presses, using machine tools to manufacture parts such as rollers. It then started to make complete printing presses, with more than 160 now out in the field, in places as far away as Canada and the United States. By the early years of the new century, however, it was becoming clear that the newspaper industry was in decline and with it Printing Press Services' core market. "We saw the printing press industry dying as the internet generation moved away from daily newspapers," says quality manager Kevin Smithson. "It's a common view within the printing industry that there won't be a daily print run for a national newspaper in this country in five years' time." GENERAL SUBCONTRACTING MOVE He continues: "Our last substantial printing press job was for the New York Post about four years ago," he says. "We had 20 engineers in America doing a full refurb on their printing presses. We still have some long running partners who need this sort of work, but from 2009 we moved into more general subcontracting." The company, which now has 42 employees, retains six engineers working on printing press breakdowns, but others have been moved on to subcontracting work. The scale of the transformation can be gauged by the fact that five years ago PPSI's workload was dominated by printing press work, but, today, 90% of the company's workload is subcontracting. PPSI International, as it is now known, is run by Joe's sons, Stephen and David McManamon, who have invested heavily in new plant and technology, along with the up-skilling of the existing workforce to meet the demands of new customers. "Stephen, in particular, is actively looking for new work and markets for the company to expand into and to increase our customer base," says Mr Smithson. "Initially, we looked for similar work to the type we were already doing, such as manufacture work for the wallpaper and paper converting press industries. But now we are branching out into new markets, in particular oil and gas, machining a wide range of parts." The company was fortunate in having the machines and the technical capability to branch out. "We've been a Mazak user for many years and we knew that the machines were capable of helping us make the move into new markets," says production manager Craig Hester. Image: PPS has been a Mazak user for many years - this Integrex 400-IV is oe f the latest investments In particular, PPSI set its sights on larger components for the oil and gas industry, renewables and transport sectors, with nuclear another avenue. "Our machining capabilities are perfectly suited for larger parts, such as oil well caps and train wheels. We machine large fabrications and heavy forge castings up to 25 tons for companies as diverse as Bradford Cylinders, and also companies in offshore oil and gas exploration," he says. IMPORTANT TECHNOLOGY "The Mazak machines are very important in helping us to deliver efficiently and competitively. They are easy to programme, very reliable and there is a good aftersales service with parts readily available, which is critical in reducing machine downtime to an absolute minimum." The machine shop now boasts 13 machining centres, including seven Mazak machines and 10 turning centres, six of which are Mazak, along with a range of manual machining and inspection equipment. PPSI's latest machine is a Mazak VTC 800/30SR 5-axis machining centre and an Integrex 400-IV, both equipped with Mazatrol Matrix for easy programming. Another subcontractor is singing the praises of its CNC programming software, Edgecam (01233 506100), which, it says, has allowed it to win work that would have been impossible to undertake, if it did not program its CNC machines with the package. Inverkeithing, Fife-based Bridgeforth Engineering manufactures precision components for oil, gas and renewable energy companies, such as Aker, FMC Technologies, Oil States, First Subsea and Paradigm. Engineering manager Ian Forsyth says, while return on investment is impossible to quantify, using Edgecam meant it has moved into new manufacturing areas, producing far more complex components than before. "Edgecam has proved to be a very worthy tool, producing a tremendous number of different, high quality, precision parts. When we reach a milestone with a particularly complex part that we've got absolutely right, thanks to Edgecam, it gives us a genuine 'wow' factor. We stand back after they're completed and we feel so proud to have produced something so complex." Image: Fife-based Bridgeforth Engineering gets the wow factor from its complex parts, manufactured with the help of Edgecam technology Working mainly in the mid-envelope range, a 1 m cube is the preferred machining size, and components include: casing hangars; tubing hangars; drill hole openers – which go down oil wells to widen out the hole thousands of feet underwater; and upper and lower bowls for First Subsea's Ballgrab gripping system, used for top-drive units. Industrial engineer Billy Anderson says Edgecam has been a real revolution for them, because the parts he is being asked to produce are getting increasingly more complex. "Draughtsmen and design engineers are the first to admit that the capability to model nowadays has made their drawings become more complex. In some cases, people are designing components using models, without thinking about the machining aspects. And if we didn't have something as sophisticated as Edgecam to generate tooling, machining strategies and the programs for toolpaths, we simply could not undertake the work." Edgecam drives machines for Bridgeforth from four different manufacturers, cutting a variety of materials, including super duplex, stainless steel, alloy steels and plastics. Mr Anderson says it is very quick and easy to move a program from one machine to another. "Before Edgecam, if I was moving a program, I'd have to do a lot of editing and it would be quite an ordeal. Now, however, it's a very quick turnaround, as I simply post process it to another machine." THOROUGH EVALUATION Bridgeforth evaluated a number of machining software systems, and says it chose Edgecam because it was user friendly and comprised all the features it felt were important. "For example, the ability to compile tool sheets 'on the fly' is extremely beneficial," Mr Anderson highlights. "Compiling tool sheets in our previous CAM system was very time consuming, involving a lot of cutting and pasting. But Edgecam sets up every single tool we need behind the scenes, which speeds up the process considerably. As soon as we select a tool, we know it'll be on the tool sheet without us having to do anything else." Edgecam also eradicated a problem that Bridgeforth had using their previous CAM system, with proving out contour heads for profiling. "There were always difficulties with the cutter and the amount of compensation, even with a facing head, but Edgecam has taken that problem right out." First published in Machinery, February 2012