A member of the British Turned Parts Association (BTMA), the Keighley company received the call from Rolls-Royce for 8,000 turned brass parts at the end of March. Within a week of getting the go-ahead, YPEL had programmed the parts, sourced the materials, the tooling and had the parts machined, inspected, certified and out of the door.

That rapid turnaround led to a second enquiry from the consortium, but this time a requirement for prismatic parts. The company’s ageing Hardinge VMC600II workhorse vertical machining centre plus a recently arrived Bridgeport Hardinge V1000H vertical machining centre with fourth axis, both supplied by Engineering Technology Group (ETG), would underpin this work.

Commenting this second batch of work, YPEL sales and financial director Lynda Laybourne said: “The 4000-off 3” square plastic housing parts required for the Ventilator Challenge required extensive milling, grooving, drilling and even turning operations – this was a different proposition to the turned parts that were produced on the sliding-head lathes.”

With lockdown fully implemented in March, YPEL had furloughed a number of staff by the time the ventilator parts arrived in April. Laybourne continues: “A large portion of our business is in the oil and gas industry, and also the brewery and hospitality sectors. The offshore sector has been hit hard, whilst many breweries closed during the lockdown and they still haven’t opened up for business. In addition to this, we had to furlough staff due to social distancing measures. Whilst the drop in business gave us the available capacity, the furlough situation meant our remaining staff had to work split shifts 24/7 for over two weeks to get the projects completed.

“The next challenge we had was the sourcing of materials. We received the order confirmation on the Thursday before Good Friday. We really struggled, but we overcame the challenge of both sourcing material and getting it delivered on Good Friday, so we could get into the project immediately.”

With 4,000 complex components to machine, YPEL created a workflow that saw the plastic housing parts initially machined on the Bridgeport Hardinge V1000H prior to a second operation on a turning centre and then a final operation on the Hardinge VMC600II. Referring to the workflow, Lynda continues: “The capabilities, precision and the flexibility of the Bridgeport Hardinge V1000H via its integrated 4th axis meant that this machine did the bulk of the work. The V1000H conducted face and side milling, pocketing, grooving, drilling and threading in a 20-minute cycle. Following this, the parts were transferred to a turning centre for a one-minute operation to process the final face before a third and final drilling operation on the Hardinge VMC600II.”

The three-operation process took approximately 30 minutes, with the ETG-supplied machining centres key, says Laybourne: “We couldn’t have completed the ‘follow-up’ order without the machines, they really are integral to our operations. We initially bought the 4-axis Bridgeport Hardinge V1000H machine to service a customer in the US, and it was our confidence in the service from ETG and the stability and reliability of the existing Hardinge VMC600II that led us to invest in an ETG machine once again. The Bridgeport Hardinge V1000H was specified for its fourth axis, the easy- to-use Heidenhain CNC control, the spacious work envelope, its powerful direct drive 10,000 rpm spindle and a host of extra features – all supplied at a very competitive price point.”

She adds: “Our team ‘pulled out all the stops’ to get through this project and, as a company, we couldn’t be more proud of the staff and their unbelievable effort to work 24/7 for 2½ weeks, even over the Easter holidays – all to play their part in the combat against Covid-19. Not only did we have to machine 12,000 components, but every individual part had to be labelled and packed in our clean-area and every member of staff was involved in this.

“The manufacturing industry deserves a lot of credit for what it has achieved during the pandemic. The wider public, the government and large OEMs now realise that SMEs throughout the supply chain - companies like YPEL - have the expertise, the capabilities, the technology, the innovation and sheer determination to manufacture high quality products right here in the UK. As businesses rise from the ashes of this pandemic, we hope a serious re-shoring initiative is instigated to show how ‘Great’ Britain really is.”