Ferrabyrne is a specialist moulding company that mainly produces bonded rubber-to-metal assemblies and suspension systems for the rail industry and commercial vehicles.
The Littlehampton-based business undertakes as much as possible in-house, including the design and production of mould tools.
Recent growth in demand from rail industry customers — driven by the refurbishment of existing rolling stock to extend its service life, as well as new projects — meant that the company’s tool-room was facing ‘unprecedented’ production challenges and needed to improve its machining capacity.
Mike Wood, Ferrabyrne’s project director, said: “Customers such as Hitachi, Siemens, Bombardier, CAF and Stadler are very active in the UK and Europe, with the development of new rolling stock leading to an increase in the number of new vehicles that our customers are bringing to market.
We have invested heavily in rapid prototyping to ease pressure at the design stage, but our tool-room was faced
with major challenges.
“We would typically produce one mould tool every two to three weeks; with it not unusual to have as many as 40 mould tools in the pipeline, along with a similar number of assembly tools, additional tool-room machining capacity was
a priority for us.”
To meet this requirement, Ferrabyrne turned to Burlescombe-based XYZ Machine Tools (www.xyzmachinetools.com
) and bought a 2010 HD vertical machining centre.
Part of XYZ’s heavy-duty range, this has box-way slides, substantial Meehanite castings and an all-up weight of 20,000kg.
One feature that attracted Ferrabyrne to this machine is its 1,000mm of travel for the Y axis, which is supported on six hardened box ways. Larger workpieces
Phil Nell, Ferrabyrne’s tooling design engineer, said: “With much of our work increasing in size, it was necessary to shuffle parts around our existing machines to fully machine them, so having the large Y axis was an important part
of our decision to buy the XYZ 2010 HD.
Our requirements also included being able to quickly set up jobs for one-off and low-volume production, and this machine gives us that ability. We also use our WorkNC and Autodesk software to help create complex tool-paths for download to the Siemens control.”
Before placing the order for the 2010 HD VMC, the team from Ferrabyrne visited one of XYZ’s showrooms for a demonstration — and saw a new ProTurn RLX 425, with a 1.25m-long bed and the new RX ProtoTrak control.
Mr Nell said: “I used ProtoTrak when it was first introduced; and because we have an XYZ SLV turret mill in the tool-room with one of the older EMX systems, I was interested to see the new control.”
He and his colleagues were so impressed by this lathe and its new control that, on returning to base, they drew up a justification for its purchase (this included the elimination of an existing CNC lathe).
“The benefits of the RLX 425 have fully justified our commitment to purchase it.
“We did have some resistance from people who were used to the old machine, but the simplicity and ease of use of the new ProtoTrak control quickly won them over.
“Our efficiency producing low-volume parts has improved, as we can load DXF files for more-complex jobs to the control, although we still program many jobs at the machine to be quickly in production.”
The ProTurn RLX 425 sits in the middle of XYZ’s ProTurn lathe range, and it is available with either 1.25 or 2m between centres.
The spindle is powered by a 7.5kW motor and has three speed ranges, covering 25-2,500rev/min.
In addition to the TraKing facility, which allows operators to cycle through a program before pressing the start button, the ProtoTrak control offers constant surface speed, a touch-screen interface (with the now familiar ‘pinch to zoom’ and ‘twist to rotate’ graphics), a tool library, on-screen speed and feed over-ride, as well as many new features that lead to a smoother workflow and increased productivity.