Tranquil PC, a business that designs and assembles ruggedised fan-less computers (and was started on the kitchen table of founder David Thompson), initially out-sourced all of its chassis machining to suppliers in China. However, as the business grew, the logistics of that arrangement (along with the risk of products being copied) prompted Mr Thompson to bring most of the machining back to the UK — and, more specifically, in-house.
The company’s computers not only address the issue of noise from multiple computers operating in an office environment but also allow their use in harsh environments, as the lack of a fan prevents any ingress of dust or other debris. Indeed, Tranquil’s products have high IP ratings, a further advantage of which is a reduction in maintenance time and costs — plus a ‘vastly increased typical PC life expectancy’.
Customers are mainly B2B enterprises from a wide variety of industries, with the Royal Mail, for instance, having over 2,000 units installed. With volumes such as this, controlling manufacturing — particularly the machining
of the aluminium cases — became a priority. Mr Thompson said: “Certain issues arose with our machining partners in China, so in 2011 we decided to begin our machine tool investment.”
This saw the purchase of an XYZ Minimill 560 from Burlescombe-based XYZ Machine Tools (www.xyzmachinetools.com
); and while this machine was initially bought to undertake R&D, it was soon ‘flat out’ seven days a week after the addition of production work. “To ease the workload, we added two XYZ 710 vertical machining centres and created our first machining cell.”
Mr Thompson admits that neither he nor the machine operators were ‘seasoned machinists or programmers’ at that time, but he says the XYZ machines provided “the ideal introduction” thanks to the ease of use of the Siemens control systems and the level of support available from XYZ Machine Tools. Shorter lead times
These first three machines contributed significantly to the overall growth of the business, thanks to the shorter lead times that resulted from eliminating the logistical problems associated with out-sourcing. “Volumes could be managed much more efficiently; we also had a much greater degree of flexibility, along with the ability to quickly adapt designs to suit individual customer requirements. The next phase of investment saw the installation of another XYZ 710 VMC and a MiniMill 560 to meet ever-increasing demand.”
With these machines running 8hr a day, five days a week, Tranquil wanted to complete a second machining cell. However, changes to the XYZ line-up meant that the 710 VMC had been superseded, with the choice now being a 750 LR or an 800 HD. Mr Thompson said: “It was here that our long-standing relationship with XYZ came to the fore.
The company understood what we needed and how we work, and it recommended the 750 LR as the machine to go for, equipped with Renishaw probing as fitted to all our other machines. The XYZ machines we now have are used purely for production, removing high volumes of material. The nature of our work is such that everything we machine starts as billet aluminium, from which we will remove 60-70% to achieve a finished part.”Cost advantage
XYZ says the 750 LR is one of the latest in its series of linear-rail machines. “The combination of linear-rail technology and a robust machine construction provides a highly capable machining platform, irrespective of the material being cut.
Furthermore, the use of linear-rail technology gives customers a cost advantage, while still delivering the quality and performance expected from an XYZ machine tool.” Other features of these machines include enhanced swarf evacuation and the option of a 24-position arm-type tool-changer.
In conclusion, Mr Thompson said: “In-house machining has definitely been a driver of our growth; and now that Tranquil PC is part of the French IT group 2CRSI, we have significant plans for further investment and growth — not only of our UK manufacturing capability but also the development of a similar facility in Switzerland to meet demand.”