‘Keeping it quiet’ at Calibre Innovations

A hobby turned up trumps when a company’s main product line hit a slowdown

Posted on 27 Aug 2017 and read 602 times
‘Keeping it quiet’ at Calibre InnovationsLike many new ventures, Tuskguard was started with an idea — and a garage to work in. The aim of Ian Bamford and his wife Nicky was to design, manufacture and install security products and access control systems.

They won a DTI Design against Crime award in 1989, followed (after the business developed) by a five-year contract for the Houses of Parliament.

Tuskguard produced a unique-key-based electronic access control system, integrated with bespoke locks of its own design.

This satisfied English Heritage’s requirements for the Houses of Parliament, and the contract led directly to the purchase of the company’s first machine tool from Burlescombe-based XYZ Machine Tools (www.xyzmachinetools.com)
— a DPM bed mill with ProtoTrak control.

This machine paid for itself in the first part of the contract, and it remains an important part of Tuskguard’s capability to this day.

After completing his apprenticeship at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Ali Bamford — Ian’s son — joined the business and put his design background to use by developing a pan-and-tilt surveillance camera for ‘asset protection’ in remote locations.

Capable of reading car number plates at a distance of two or three miles and identifying people at distances up to 30 miles, this camera comprised thousands of components, which necessitated additional machining capacity.

At the time, XYZ Machine Tools had just launched its LPM machining centre, which features the Jergens Ball Lock fixture location system.

Ali Bamford said: “We had suffered with issues relating to sub-contracted work and wanted to manage all of our machining in-house. The ability to quickly change pallets on the LPM and be setting one job while the previous one was in the machine was a significant benefit.

“We were able to manufacture fixtures that could hold multiple parts and run for 18hr unattended, producing hundreds
of parts in one set-up.”

Tuskguard 1At the same time as the XYZ LPM was being installed, Tuskguard also took delivery of an XYZ SLX 355 ProTurn lathe.

With its ProtoTrak control, this machine can be operated manually, produce complex one-offs or undertake small batch runs.

“The combination of the LPM and SLX was perfect for our business, which we see as a ‘one-stop shop’ for customers who either have products that they want machining in volume, or a design project that requires prototyping, followed by pre-production samples and then the finished item.”

Time for change


When Tuskguard suffered a slowdown in demand for camera systems, it began searching for alternative products to manufacture; and with Ali Bamford’s hobby of shooting, it was decided to create a sister company — Calibre Innovations.

The aim was to develop and manufacture a range of suppressors/moderators (more commonly referred to as silencers).

The initial concept was developed by making the components in plastic, using the company’s 3-D printer.

While this was successful in the initial stages of the project, long-term development necessitated manufacture using more-robust materials capable of withstanding the gas pressures when a gun is fired.

The principal behind a suppressor is to disrupt the gas flow and slow it down, thereby reducing the noise. Initially, the design was for small-calibre (.22) weapons. Ali Bamford then developed a model for larger calibres.

This needed a more-complex baffle inside the suppressor — one that would require a Y-axis turning capability.

Tuskguard 2With three XYZ machines already installed, the Bamfords chose an XYZ CT52 LTY turning centre; and while this was a move away from the familiar ProtoTrak control fitted to the DPM, SLX and LPM machines, Ali Bamford says the ease of use of the Siemens control made it a straightforward change.

The 52mm bar capacity was “perfect” for the titanium that was to be machined, and the ±35mm Y-axis travel allowed the complex turbine form on the baffle to be machined (this baffle is designed to make the gas work and travel further within the suppressor).

“The CT52 LTY allowed our Ducis suppressor, which is made up of four interchangeable baffles with varying threads, to fit a variety of guns with different applications.

“We couldn’t manufacture the range of parts efficiently without the Y axis; the alternative would have been two operations on the SLX lathe, then transfer the part to the DPM mill and use a manual dividing head to produce a much simpler form.

“Now it is one operation on the CT52 LTY, followed by a second operation on the LPM to drill location holes.”

With the CT52 LTY, Calibre Innovations has also been able to under-take the manufacture of custom/bespoke rifles based on the Armalite AR10 and AR15 ‘platforms’.

Moreover, the success of the suppressors and other work undertaken by Calibre innovations has seen it overtake Tuskguard in terms of turnover; it now accounts for around 80% of total sales of the two businesses.

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