Encocam future-proofs machining requirements

Cambridgeshire firm invests in five-axis machine tools to meet its immediate and anticipated needs

Posted on 11 Sep 2018 and read 1113 times
Encocam future-proofs machining requirementsIn June and November 2017, Huntingdon-based Encocam Ltd bought two Mikron HEM 700U five-axis machining centres for Stonehill Engineering, which is one of its eight divisions.

They are being used to machine a diverse range of high-precision components and mould tools for the company’s internal and external customers.

Most of the work undertaken on both Mikron machining centres — supplied by Coventry-based GF Machining Solutions Ltd (www.gfms.com/uk) — has involved the machining of precision parts for Encocam’s largest division ().

Established in 1988, this division develops and manufactures passive safety-testing products and equipment for the global automotive market.

It exports 92% of its products to Japan, China, Korea, India, Malaysia, the USA and Europe, and in 2017 received a Queen’s Award (in the International Trade category).

Cellbond offers the full range of ‘deformable barriers’ used in passive safety tests and consumer information tests such as the Euro NCAP Safety Rating programme.

In 2012, the company moved into the Anthropomorphic Test Device (ATD) sector, designing and manufacturing crash test dummies, leg-form impactors and head-forms.

Future-proofing machining requirements at EncocamThe current product line-up includes the Q-series range of child crash-test dummies (Q3, Q6 and Q10) for testing child safety in vehicles, the Flex-PLI Legform Impactor and the advanced Pedestrian Legform Impactor (aPLI) for testing pedestrian safety, plus the most advanced crash-test dummy ever designed — the THOR-50M, which represents a standard adult male.

Complex and technically advanced, Cellbond’s ATD products are made from hundreds of precision-machined and moulded parts, which undergo rigorous inspection and testing before (and after) assembly.

All machined parts are produced in-house from materials that include aluminium, steel, bronze and plastic.

They are machined to high levels of accuracy and surface finish, while the plastic and rubber moulded components are produced from mould tools that are designed and manufactured in house.

The quality of parts and tools is critical. The business is accredited to ISO 9001:2008, and Cellbond’s in-house ATD Certification and Test Facility achieved ISO17025 accreditation in 2016.

Individual metal and plastic parts, as well as mould tools, are being produced on the HEM 700U machines.

Audit review

The decision to invest in the two Mikrons was made following an audit and review by the company of its existing CNC machine tool capacity and capabilities, and whether these were sufficient to meet future customer demand for Cellbond crash-test dummies — including spare and replacement parts.

David Sheahan, Encocam’s purchasing and supply manager, said: “We have always invested in advanced machine tool technologies, and our machine shop includes the latest CNC milling, CNC turning and EDM products.

“However, the audit revealed that our existing milling capacity was under pressure, which could affect our ability to meet customer lead times in the future.

“It was decided that new investment in the latest five-axis machine tool technologies was required.

“Having invested in a five-axis machine tool some years ago, we understand the strengths of five-axis working, how the technology can be used to machine complex shapes in one set-up and reduce part cycle times — and help to improve component accuracies and surface finishes.

Future-proofing pic 2“While our existing five-axis machine was still performing satisfactorily, it was a little ‘long in the tooth’ and its capabilities had been superseded by newer models on the market.”

Encocam approached GF Machining Solutions, which had previously supplied it with two Mikron VCE Pro three-axis machining centres.

Mr Sheahan said: “Having discussed our immediate and future requirements with them, we decided to invest in the first Mikron HEM 700U, which offers a full five-axis simultaneous-machining capability.”

The machine bought by Encocam features linear guides on all axes, a 20kW 12,000rev/min spindle with HSK tooling interface, a 630mm-diameter rotary/tilting table with +65/-110deg B-axis tilt and 360deg C-axis rotation, and a Heidenhain control.

In conclusion, Mr Sheahan said: “Since being installed, the HEM 700U machines haven’t missed a beat. They have helped us to ramp up production and to meet demand for machined precision parts.”

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