Numatic Cleans up with Hexagon’s Toolroom CAM

Founded in 1969 in Crewkerne with just six staff and a factory the size of a garage, Numatic started its journey producing vacuum cleaners for cleaning coal, oil and gas-fired boilers. Over the years, the company has expanded exponentially, entering the professional floor cleaning sector with wet and dry vacuums as well as entering the domestic appliance marketplace.

It is the domestic market where Numatic has its most iconic brand, the Henry vacuum cleaner. In fact, 2021 is both the 30th anniversary of this legendary product and the anniversary of the company moving to its existing site in Chard, Somerset. The company has opened subsidiaries around the world and is a remarkable UK manufacturing success story with dozens of product lines spread throughout the four primary ranges that include the CleanCare, ProCare, FloorCare and VersaCare Series. Every week, Numatic produces more than 4,000 commercial cleaning machines and another 28,000 vacuum cleaners for household use. A large percentage of the 28,000 weekly units manufactured will be part of the Henry family, such as the George, James, Charles or one of Henry’s 300+ variants.

To produce such a high weekly output volume, the 1000+ employee factory operates 24/7 in some areas, with 50 injection moulding machines producing the moulded parts for the cleaning machines. If one of the injection mould tools fails during production, it is down to the toolroom and their application of the VISI CAD/CAM system from Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division to get the tool repaired, back on the shop floor at breakneck speeds and running the parts efficiently with minimal disruption to production.

Discussing where the relationship between Numatic and VISI started, Toolroom Supervisor at Numatic, Mr Scott Connett says: “We have now been using VISI for 12 years and what initially attracted us was the CAD/CAM integration with it just being one system. This means we are not chopping and changing from one software suite to the next. We primarily use VISI for repairs and modifications to existing tools and it enables us to undertake our machining and apply the roughing strategies for complex parts in around 15 to 30 minutes. That is an absolute saving for us. In most instances, our mould tools are manufactured externally, but having VISI means that we have the facility to design and manufacture some of our mould tools in-house.”

The toolroom at Numatic has 11 staff and a selection of CNC machine tools from XYZ, Hurco, HAAS, YMT and Sodick that are all utilised for machining inserts, punches and any other wear parts or components that may need repair or replacement in the mould tools that are running around the clock. Numatic has more than 2,100 injection mould tools on-site and at any point, so the toolroom could be called upon to remove damaged or worn components from a mould tool, locate the drawing file and subsequently create a CAM file with VISI and then machine a new component for the tool. Once this task is undertaken, the tool is returned to the production line.

The injection moulding machines on the production floor range from 40 to 1,400 tonne pressure machines with the largest injection mould tool weighing in at 15 tonnes. Working in such a demanding environment, the majority of components in the injection mould tools are produced from pre-hardened 40HRc steel, which provides added challenges for the toolroom that is tasked with machining the components.

Scott continues: “For the high-volume injection moulding machines, we always have a spare injection tool in place and ready to go, but for the lower volume parts, we have to leap into action and apply VISI to create a CAM file from the XT ParaSolid drawings that we have on our tool registry files. From this, we generate the most productive machining strategy for our machine tools, proving out the process and getting the parts machined quickly. As the material is difficult to machine, VISI helps us with our machining strategies to account for this. We would be completely lost without VISI as it allows us to load particular programs into our machines and this gives us the versatility to have complete machine-tool availability. This is credit to Hexagon providing all the appropriate post-processors for our respective machine tools.”

“We have recently added our third seat of VISI and the modular configuration is perfect for our business, as we have adopted the standard element system, the mould tool module and the electrode package for our EDM machine. We may also look at other elements in the future such as VISI flow or even the scanning package. Between the various modules, the interface is the same and this simplifies and speeds up the programming process. As an integrated CAD/CAM package, VISI allows production to continue and depending upon the repair that is required, we can generate a fast turnaround, and this allows us to keep the wheels in motion for the production environment. We also use VISI to design and manufacture jigs and fixtures for the mould tools,” continues Scott.

“Before purchasing VISI, we had no 3D design experience, but we get maximum support from Hexagon and we have our own personalised portal. So, if there are any issues in terms of support that we need, we raise a log and Hexagon will give us a call back within the hour, two at the most. This means that the support system is always there for us. Furthermore, we get regular maintenance updates as part of our service and this ensures we are always kept up to speed with all of the latest product enhancements to ensure we can maximise our productivity,” concludes Scott.