The highly specialised grinding section at the mould and tooling manufacturer West Pharmaceutical Services Cornwall Ltd returned to its preferred supplier of grinding machines, when it was time to upgrade its capabilities.
Recently installed were a J&S Ultramat 650 Easy cylindrical grinder, two J&S 524 Easy surface grinders and a Hauser H35 jig grinder; all four machines were supplied by Leicester-based Jones & Shipman Hardinge Ltd (www.jonesshipman.com
West — a market leader in the development of pharmaceutical-packaging components and delivery systems for injectable drugs — takes pride in being at the forefront of pharmaceutical and biotech innovation, developing new therapies and health-care solutions.
At Bodmin, the company’s extensive tool-room operation reflects the standards of the pharmaceutical industry, with the machine tools and working environment maintained in a spotless condition. John Chaffe, the plant’s manufacturing manager, says there is a culture of not just cleanliness but also absolute precision.
“Consistency, accuracy and surface finish are key to everything we manufacture. We mostly work in stainless steel, with the manufacture of tools for moulding rubber products predominating; these are in use in West’s operations world-wide.
“Primarily, a mould consists of two matching plates containing inserts that create the seals or stoppers for vials. Plates can accommodate anything from a few hundred inserts; the largest plate we make contains 11,000.
“There is no compromise on precision or quality, and component repeatability is a major factor; achieving the required specifications frequently necessitates producing complex ground surfaces to high levels of surface finish.
“Moreover, when grinding, we always flood the component and work table with coolant — a time-proven way of negating thermal expansion.”
As well as moulds for many types of rubber components, West’s Bodmin operation also manufactures moulds for plastic products, plus the trim dies used for precision cutting finished seals after moulding.
High-grade stainless steel is the material of choice for both the surface finishes achievable, because the sterilising regime necessitated by the medical industry involves submersing moulds in a 400ºC saline solution.
Mr Chaffe says Jones & Shipman has long been the preferred supplier of grinding machines to West’s Bodmin facility. “We have operated two of the company’s 1300 models for some years, so when it came time to upgrade, we had a close look at the Easy software J&S has developed for programming and operating its latest-generation machines.
“We first bought a 524 surface grinder with the touch-screen control and Easy software. Next we added another 524, followed by an Ultramat Easy 650 cylindrical machine.
“Operator acceptance of the Easy software has been excellent, with both skilled and semi-skilled operators alike finding the software as easy to use as the name suggests.”
The latest-generation Ultramat 650 bought by West features the optional B axis, which can swivel the wheel-head for grinding negative tapers.
Furthermore, this axis allows the machine to grind not only multiple diameters,but also angle features — along with external and external features — in the one process.
This capability improves not just the cycle time but also the repeatability and concentricity, as components do not have to be remounted when undertaking batch work.
Another option that West specified was the J&S acoustic listening device; this allows very precise ‘pick-up’ — to micron accuracy — when the wheel touches the part. There is also a special adapter to accommodate the occasional ‘polar grinding’.
The Ultramat 650 features a one-piece ‘T-bed’ with a fully supported table that is designed to ensure high levels of geometric accuracy.
Meanwhile, the control panels have membrane-type touch keys and electronic hand-wheels; and because the machine has automatic dressing and grinding cycles, it can be quickly set and then left to run unmanned.
Standard fitments include Heidenhain absolute ‘Nano’ linear scales, along with Fanuc digital AC servo motors and Fanuc control.