Quest for a Perfect grinder

A leading supplier of precision-machined components selects a semi-automatic machine

Posted on 04 Sep 2017 and read 751 times
Quest for a Perfect grinderEngineering Quest has over 30 years’ experience and is a leading supplier of precision-machined components and
sub-assemblies (www.join-the-quest.co.uk).

The company operates from two sites — one at Bletchley (Buckinghamshire), the other at Great Gransden (Bedfordshire) — and provides a range of services. These start with design and run through pre-production components to high-volume production.

With a diverse customer base and a particular emphasis on the oil and gas, diesel systems, medical, aerospace and electronics sectors, there is always a focus on improving efficiency — hence Engineering Quest’s recent purchase of a Perfect PFG 4080 AH semi-automatic grinding machine from Erith-based RK International Machine Tools (www.rk-int.com).

Engineering Quest attributes much of its success to the versatility offered by almost 60 CNC machines across its two sites; these cover most aspects of machining and include horizontal and vertical milling, multi-axis turn/milling, cylindrical grinding (internal and external) and jig grinding, along with solid-sink and wire-cut EDM.

Moreover, some £1 million is invested in new equipment every three years.

Managing director Steve Matheron says: “The diversity of machines and our cellular-type approach to machining provide a high level of manufacturing flexibility; and when the oil and gas sector took a dip, we did not feel the effects too greatly.

“Our customers turn to us for product developments that will improve their efficiency, and the oil sector continued to invest in such developments, as well as ‘high end’ products.”

Precision plays a major role in Engineering Quest’s production, which involves 90 of its 120 staff. This fact is evident in the sub-micron work that the company undertakes, particularly in the medical sector, for which it regularl produces surgical instruments for eye surgery.

Typically, Engineering Quest is working to 0.3µm geometric tolerances and 2µm linear tolerances for this type of work.

Reviewing investment


Mr Matheron adds: “We have a strong belief that investment remains crucial to our success, and we have committed significant levels of resource over the past 20 years to maintain our cost and technical advantages. That said, any
investment decision is the subject of a detailed market review.”

The choice of a Perfect PFG 4080 AH from RK International followed a review of the existing capacity at Engineering Quest and the changing needs of customers, particularly in the oil and gas sector, which required larger volumes of work. Surface grinding at the Bletchley facility was mainly manual, which limited production to single components per set-up.

With the semi-automatic operation that the Perfect machine offers, along with its 400 x 800mm maximum grinding area, it is now possible to load the table with up to 20 components, giving a significant increase in productivity.

The spindle on the Perfect grinder features class P4 high-precision angular-contact bearings that give a run-out of less than 2μm.

In addition, the spindle is a cartridge type that is sealed and lubricated for extended operating life. Meanwhile, the use of Turcite-B on the slideways provides precise movement, eliminates stick-slip and ensures long-term accuracy.

Mr Matheron said: “We took our time over the decision to upgrade our surface-grinding capacity, and our cell supervisor played a strategic role in the final selection; we need to know that our operators will be happy with the equipment we give them.

“The choice to go semi-automatic was driven by several factors, including improved efficiency.”

Engineering Quest works on a high-capacity/ low-utilisation regime for its machines, so the company generally has the capacity to meet most requirements. With the new surface grinder, it was aware that this machine would not be run constantly across its four-day week with 10hr shifts.

Engineering Quest wanted a grinder that provided ease of use, at a price that meant depreciation would not be a concern if the machine was under-utilised.

“At around a third of the cost of an equivalent CNC grinder and with the easy-to-use control simplifying setting of the machine, the semi-automatic Perfect PFG 4080 AH met both of these targets, allowing us to achieve positive results very quickly.”

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