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Nakamura ‘keeps the spindles turning’ at offshore sub-contractor

Posted on 05 May 2021 and read 568 times
Nakamura ‘keeps the spindles turning’ at offshore sub-contractorFounded in 1955, Lancashire-based Kirkham Engineering Co Ltd has established a reputation as a specialist in the production of repetition turned parts on CNC fixed head and sliding head machines.

With decades of experience and a machine inventory supplied by a host of manufacturers down the generations, the latest machine to be installed is a Nakamura Tome AS-200L turning centre supplied by the Wellesbourne-based Engineering Technology Group (ETG).

Kirkham Engineering produces a wide range of components, for the oil and gas industries and petrochemical sectors, from simple to complex parts, in material types from ferrous and non-ferrous metals through to exotic nickel alloys, including Duplex, Monel, Inconel, hastelloy, titanium and stellite.

To this end, Kirkham Engineering needs its machine tools to offfer an exceptional level of flexibility and productivity while offering a robust build quality that provides a stable platform for machining challenging materials. This is why the company opted for the new turning centre.

ETGInstalled in October 2020, the new machine follows in the footsteps of a Nakamura AS-200L acquisition, again from ETG, which arrived in 2017. The AS-200-LMYSF is the result of an increasing workload at sub-contract business which employs 30 people.

Barry Lynam, Kirkham Engineering financial director, said: “The AS-200-LMYSF can be set-up extremely quickly and this gives us flexibility for small batch runs of fast turnround parts. It can respond far quicker than our more complex machines. It has a large work envelope in a small footprint and it is extremely robust which is perfect for heavy duty cutting. We love our Nakamura machines.”

Supplied as a complete package by ETG, the new turning centre arrived complete with tooling, a Hydrafeed MSV-65 plus a BSU bar support unit (to give a 1.5m bar feed) and a swarf conveyor, making the machine ready to hit the ground running.

The machine has a maximum turning diameter of 280mm with a maximum through-spindle bar diameter of 65mm. This enables batch and production runs of small to medium-size parts courtesy of the Hydrafeed bar feed unit.

The 8in chuck machine has a maximum turning length of 570mm and its 5.5/3.7kW 15-station tooling turret provides exceptional levels of torque for heavy duty cutting and high-material removal rates.

The affinity that Kirkham Engineering has with Nakamura machines dates back to 2012 when the company purchased two second-hand Nakamura WT250 twin-spindle twin-turret turning centres.

Mr Lynam continued: “The 1999 Nakamura WT250 machines were purchased for making repetitive niche parts from 2in diameter billets. The components for the offshore sector were previously being completed in nine operations.

“The Nakamura WT250 machines brought this down to a single set-up operation that only required secondary part-identity marking. The machines reduced the machining time from 30min to 12min – if you added the time for multiple set-ups, the savings would have been very significant. We were instantly sold on Nakamura machines.”

ETGSince 2012, Kirkham added to its two initial WT250 turning centres with two additional WT250 machines, a second-generation WT250 II and a WT150MMY – all purchased at auction.

“Used Nakamura machines are difficult to find as nobody wants to let them go — we have been lucky down the years to source the machines we have had. These machines have outperformed all our other fixed head turning centres.

“They really are ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’. While the twin-spindle and twin-turret configuration of the older machines is perfect for production runs of complex components, the new AS-200-LMYSF machines are providing benefits beyond the realms of these extremely capable machines.”

Performance and reliability

Mr Lynam added: “When we were looking for additional turning capacity, we were always going to invest in Nakamura machines, as the performance and reliability have set these machines apart from anything else we have.

“We already have highly capable twin spindle and twin turret machines, but we wanted something that had a smaller footprint and was faster to programme and get up and running – the AS-200L fitted the bill. Unlike the larger machines, the new turning centre is the latest generation machine with the new Fanuc CNC unit and NT Machine Simulation and NT Collision Guard from Nakamura Tome.

“This allows us to rapidly programme and simulate our components and run the first part with confidence and speed. The culmination of having the latest generation of Nakamura software built into the Fanuc CNC control means we can programme and produce parts on the AS-200-LMYSF much faster than we would on other machines. This allows us to be even more responsive to customer demands for fast-turnround jobs, especially small batch runs.”

ETG“Added to this, the kinematics of the compact AS-200-LMYSF places the tool turret closer to the workpiece to reduce non-cutting times. This shaves seconds off the cycle times when compared to our larger machines.”

Mr Lynam said: “The simultaneous machining capability of our larger twin-turret machines may yield a faster cycle time on complex parts, which is perfect for long production runs – but for smaller batches, the AS-200-LMYSF is certainly faster, more flexible and every bit as capable as the larger machines.”

“We machine a lot of parts to the NORSOK petroleum standards for the offshore industry and this sees us machining a lot of hexagonal nuts, bolts and valves from some very difficult materials. As hexagonal bar stock from stockholders is not always up to the standards we require, we buy round bar and undertake a lot of heavy duty milling of flats on our Nakamura machines.”

He concluded: “Here, the stability and construction of the machine base combined with the heavy-duty high-powered tooling turret give us complete confidence that we can undertake high material removal rates on some very challenging materials while obtaining exceptional surface finishes.

“As a company, we are completely sold on the concept of Nakamura machines and this is borne from our long-standing experience with the Japanese brand. Additionally, the service and support from ETG is very impressive and it helps us to keep our spindles turning.”