At the beginning of November 2019, Andover-based MRT Castings — an aluminium die-casting and machining specialist — took delivery of the first Brother Speedio R650X2 machining centre to be installed in Europe.
This 30-taper machine is equipped with twin pallets carrying fourth-axis trunnions; it also features Blum workpiece and tool probing to ensure the accuracy of machined parts.
Supplied by Brother’s sole UK and Ireland agent — Kenilworth-based Whitehouse Machine Tools Ltd (www.wmtcnc.com
) — the new machine replaced a 20-year-old Brother model with a standard table that was still producing parts within tolerance.
However, the Speedio R650X2 has reduced cycle times by 30% when running identical programs — thanks to the speed and power of its C00 control system.
Additionally, automatic pallet change cuts loading times, presenting parts to the spindle faster and increasing productivity still further.
A sequel to Brother’s TC-32B QT ‘flagship’ model, the latest 16,000rev/min-spindle machine has the largest number of tools available in the Speedio range (40 as opposed to the earlier machine’s 21), as well as a larger X-axis stroke (up from 550 to 650mm) and an 800mm-long table instead of 600mm.
The Z-axis travel has also been increased.
The fact that the R650X2 has these characteristics is partly down to the relationship that Phil Rawnson — managing director of MRT Castings — has developed with the Japanese machine builder after regular meetings that helped advise the machine tool manufacturer about the UK manufacturing sector and what the market requires.
For example, increased X-axis capacity is a standard request from MRT, as evidenced by the company’s involvement in the development and introduction of the Brother Speedio S1000X1 with a 1m X axis.
Two of them were installed at MRT four years ago, and they were the first models to be sold by Whitehouse Machine Tools.
Similarly, in April 2019, MRT was the first company in the UK to install a Brother cell with Feedio robotic component handling to automate a five-axis M140X2 machining centre that was purchased at the same time.
Mr Rawnson said: “Brother’s willingness to consult with its customers is a good sign; it means it is listening to what the market wants.
“We made it clear to the company that we prefer a large machining envelope to give us more flexibility in how we fixture parts.
“There are several ways we exploit the additional working volume, especially extra X-axis travel.
“If we need to hit several faces of a component, we can carry out a second machining operation sequentially by fixturing parts side by side on a single fixture, or we can clamp a larger number of small parts to fill the table.
“By putting more castings under the spindle at the same time, fewer tool changes are needed per component, and productivity is increased.
“Alternatively, we can use the three or four CNC axes to machine longer castings at the highly productive rates offered by a 30-taper machine.”
Pallet-change Brothers are generally used at the Andover facility if cycle times are short (less than 5min), to minimise spindle idle time during sequential Op 1 and Op 2 machining on six sides of a casting.
Mr Rawnson says that fixed-table machines are more economical if cycles are longer, as one operator can load and unload two machines to complete the two operations in tandem.
“Accuracies achieved are impressive, down to a couple of microns for bearing bores.
“Some electrical assemblies comprise up to 20 individual castings, and tolerance build-up can become a problem if such tight limits are not held.
“Other work for the electronics, defence and top-end lighting sectors also stipulates tolerances that are sometimes very tight.
“Parts coming off the Brothers are not only dimensionally accurate but also highly repeatable.
“MRT Castings has been a family-run business since it was formed in 1947, and it has always worked in partnership with its customers, constantly evolving to meet their demands.
“Brother has adopted a similar partnership approach, listening to what we and other sub-contractors want and developing new machines to fit our changing requirements.”
In early 2020, MRT will open a new foundry that will be 60% larger than its existing one.
The latter will close to provide extra space for an additional machine shop designed to cope with the ever-increasing amount of new contracts that MRT is winning — from both existing and new customers.
A growing number of customers are from abroad, the firm having won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise (International Trade) in 2016 after increasing its overseas sales by 330% in the previous three years.
Exports now account for half of MRT’s annual turnover.