Northamptonshire-based Wykes Engineering Ltd
, an independent company founded by managing director David Wykes in 1982, is at the forefront of the ‘green’ energy revolution, manufacturing a range of products for renewable power generation systems, including anaerobic digestion, wind power and solar.
The company works in tandem with its sister company, Ancillary Equipment Ltd, which uses its technology. Demand for new systems and expansion of existing on-site anaerobic generation capacity at its Rushden location, led to an expansion of Wykes Engineering’s machining capacity — which saw the arrival of large-capacity turning in the form of an XL 780 lathe supplied by Burlescombe-based XYZ Machine Tools
It was the anaerobic digestion side of the business that particularly required the additional turning capacity provided by the XYZ XL 780. The anaerobic digestion systems produced by Wykes take ‘out of date’ or waste food products from supermarkets, local government household waste sites and food manufacturers. It then converts the waste into gas, which is combusted to generate electricity.
To maximise this process, food must be separated from its packaging, which requires a variety of shafts in differing diameters and lengths, with hardened protrusions. These rotate at around 1,000rev/min to pulp the waste; the resulting ‘sludge’ is then transferred to storage tanks for anaerobic digestion. Capacity and versatility
The XYZ XL 780 with its 780mm swing over the bed and 3m distance between centres provides Wykes Engineering with the capacity and versatility it requires for the machining of smaller parts. The purchase of the lathe with Siemens 828D ShopTurn control was Wykes Engineering’s first move into CNC turning.
John Houghton, Wykes Engineering’s design engineer, said: “The Siemens control was completely new to us, but we have found it extremely easy to use, especially with the training support we received from XYZ Machine Tools. We had a demonstration of the machine at XYZ’s Burlescombe facility on a Monday, which convinced us that it was the right machine and control for us. We placed the order the following week and the machine was installed and commissioned just ten days later.”
Over and above the user-friendly Siemens control, the XYZ XL 780 offered other advantages to Wykes Engineering. First of which was the price — having reviewed the market for lathes of this capacity it found the XYZ machine to be 10-20% less expensive than its competitors.
Also, the company was reassured that service support and spares were readily available should the need arise. The technical support offered was also big plus.
Mr Houghton explained: “If we had any questions relating to programming and operating the machine, which was all part of our learning curve, they were answered with a simple telephone call to XYZ Machine Tools.”
“The combination of the XYZ XL 780’s versatility, where we can use it for large and small components and the Siemens control, means it is easy to repeat jobs accurately when we need to. We are also seeing cycle time reductions of around 40% when compared to our manual lathes, with exceptional repeatability between components, which is impacting greatly on workflow through the factory.
John Cresswell, Wykes Engineering’s design office manager, added: “The arrival of the new XYZ lathe is also having an impact on component design, as we can now machine features that would either be difficult or time-consuming if machined manually.”
The company is also experiencing impressive productivity gains — while most components are one-offs or low volume — they do repeat. The combination of the machine and Siemens control system gives Wykes Engineering a competitive advantage due to the ability to call up a program and quickly replicate something that was produced previously.