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ECAM increases machining capability with new Doosan HMC

Staffordshire firm can now target new contracts that involve the manufacture of larger and heavier components

Posted on 30 Jul 2021 and read 862 times
ECAM increases machining capability with new Doosan HMCLeamington Spa-based Mills CNC, the exclusive distributor of Doosan machine tools in the UK and Ireland, has recently supplied Stoke-on-Trent ECAM Engineering Ltd with a new Doosan NHP 6300 horizontal machining centre (HMC) which it bought through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

The machine was installed at the company’s 20,000ft2 facility in April, and is the first HMC to be acquired by the company in its 52-year history, as well as being its first Doosan machine tool investment.

The introduction of the heavy-duty NHP 6300 — a large-capacity, rigidly designed and built machining centre — will not only increased ECAM’s machining capacity but also its production capabilities.

Phil Arme, ECAM’s managing director, said: “We have a number of three-axis vertical machining centres at our disposal and use them to machine precision components, made from steel plate of varying thicknesses, that have previously been through our in-house steel profiling and fabrication processes.

“The arrival of the new NHP 6300, with its twin-pallet configuration and B-axis table, will enable us to machine these parts quicker and more efficiently than was previously the case. Furthermore, the new machine’s rigidity, large working envelope and powerful BT50 spindle technology also provides significant opportunities for us to secure new contracts that involve the machining of larger and heavier components.”

ECAM Engineering specialises in supplying precision-fabricated and machined components to a range of customers operating in a variety of industry sectors including construction, rail and automative. The company’s largest customer is JCB - which is only a stone’s throw away from ECAM’s facility in Cheadle.

Back in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic and when the first national lockdown was introduced, the outlook for ECAM was uncertain. Some of the company’s major customers were cancelling and/or postponing work, and were furloughing staff.

Mr Arme reflected: “They were unprecedented times but I was confident that, with the expertise and skill of our 36-strong workforce combined with our in-depth knowledge of the sectors and industries we serve, we would cope with the current uncertainties and emerge stronger than before.”

Such optimism, as it transpired, was well placed, the pandemic did have an impact on the company’s business operations, it was short-lived and, since the turn of the year, ECAM Engineering has reported significantly increased business activity that is now actually exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

The pick-up in business, that started back in the autumn of last year, was indeed the catalyst for the company’s NHP 6300 horizontal machining centre investment.

Ideal opportunity

Mr Arme continued: “Although not originally in our 2021 investment plans, the upturn in activity and its positive impact on business confidence combined with the introduction of the Government’s CIBLS programme and its favourable repayment terms and conditions, provided the ideal opportunity for us to invest in the company to make us better prepared to capitalise on the upturn.”

A particular area of the business where the company was looking to strengthen was in its machine shop. Mr Arme said: “Over recent years we have invested heavily in our people, our plant and our equipment, as well as in our systems and processes. In 2019 we increased the floor space of the company by 30% when we acquired two new units adjacent to our main facility. During the same time frame we also invested in a new plasma cutting machine and a new CNC press brake.

“Our objective is to become a one-stop shop for customers - not just providing world-class in-house steel plate profiling, welding and fabrication, and machining services, but also a full range of integrated ‘secondary’ specialisms that include painting, shot blasting, plating and powder coating.”

To improve the company’s machining capabilities it was always in the plan to invest in a new horizontal machining centre — the decision being less ‘if’ rather than ‘when’.

He continued: “I did my homework and investigated what a large-capacity horizontal machine could give us.. We began discussions with Mills CNC soon afterwards, and visited the company’s facility in Leamington Spa where we met representatives from their sales and applications teams. We were impressed with the set up and were more than impressed with the NHP 6300 machine they recommended.”

The key advantages include: the ability to machine larger, heavier and more awkward-shaped workpieces; the ability, via the machine’s rigid construction and advanced BT50 spindle technology, to reduce part cycle times on existing jobs by being able to ramp up speeds and feeds and take more aggressive depths of cut etc; the ability to improve productivity via the machine’s twin-pallet configuration i.e. enabling jobs to be set-up on the ‘free’ pallet while machining operations were occurring (simultaneously) on the machine’s second pallet; and the ability to increase production efficiencies through the use of innovative and custom-designed and manufactured jigs and fixtures (i.e. tombstone fixtures), that enable multiple parts to be machined to completion in a single set up.

The NHP 6300 machine acquired by ECAM Engineering was supplied with a 37kW/15,000rev/min BT50 spindle, a 60-tool servo-driven ATC and features the latest Fanuc 31i control.

The machine is equipped with roller LM guideways for increased accuracies, a versatile B-axis table that rotates in increments as small as 0.0001deg, and twin 630mm pallets. It also boasts impressive rapids 60m/min and has large X/Y/Z axis travels of 1,050 x 900 x 1,000mm).

Mr Arme added: “In addition to its brilliant specification, the NHP 6300 was in stock and available for immediate delivery. It was delivered and installed at ECAM’s facility in April 2021 with operator training taking place a few days later.

“We have taken our time in order to become totally familiar with the machine and to understand its strengths and its limitations. In the near future the machine will be used to machine steel components, often with intricate details and features, to high precision and tight tolerances.”

Since then it has predominantly been used to machine bespoke jigs and fixtures.

At a time when many manufacturers have been ‘battening down the hatches’ ECAM has kept on the front foot and, in addition to investing £250,000 in new machinery the last eight months, has also introduced and recruited three apprentices into its in-house apprenticeship training programme, run in conjunction with the North Staffordshire Engineering Group Training Association.

Mr Arme concluded: “Recent events demonstrate that you can’t necessarily predict the future. However, you can prepare yourself to meet the challenges and capitalise on the opportunities it presents.”