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New machine shop off to a flyer

Erodatools gets its fledgling machine shop up-and-running by investing in three new, high-performance Doosan machines

Posted on 17 Aug 2021 and read 830 times
New machine shop off to a flyer South Yorkshire-based Erodatools Ltd, a leading EDM precision sub-contract specialist, has been supplied with three new Doosan machine tools from Mills CNC, the exclusive distributor of Doosan machine tools in the UK and Ireland.

The machines, comprising two compact, multi-tasking Lynx lathes — a Lynx 2100LSYB and a Lynx 2600Y — and a DNM 6700 vertical machining centre, supplied with a Nikken 4th-axis unit, were installed at the company’s 8,500ft2 facility in Penistone in September 2020, April 2021 and May 2021 respectively.

The investment in the three new machines marks a major strategic move by the company to supplement its core and traditional wire and solid sink EDM operations with an in-house CNC machine shop with ‘state of the art’ turning and milling capabilities.

Spearheading the development of the new resource is Jon Harper, Erodatools’ recently appointed machine shop manager. He said: “The new machine shop complements the EDM side of the business. It is run on the same business principles and company values that have served Erodatools so well for almost 50 years — namely a commitment to continuous improvement, to ‘best-in-class’ quality and to unrivalled customer care.”

Erodatools was created in 1972 by brothers Ken and Tony Rolfe as an EDM precision sub-contract specialist businesss, initially providing high-accuracy wire and die-sinking machining services to local customers operating in the mining and rail industries.

In those days, EDM was a relatively unknown machining process among many manufacturers with some, more familiar with conventional machining technologies, often referring to it as a ‘black art’.

MillsHowever, for the stress-free machining of high-precision and often, complex and intricate, workpiece features such as thin walls, tapers, internal corners with tight radii etc, to exacting geometric tolerances and surface finishes - the process was unrivalled.

Mr Harper continued: “Erodatools, through the skill and dedication of its people combined with regular and prudent investment in advanced EDM machine tools, built a strong and solid reputation in the market based on quality, lead time fulfilment and cost-competitiveness.

“As EDM became a more mainstream technology so Erodatools, as a recognised and leading niche specialist, was able to take advantage of the situation and grow the business.”

Today the company serves a diverse range of customers operating in the aerospace, automotive, oil and gas, medical devices, marine and energy sectors.

Caroline Healey, Erodatools’ works manager, said: “Although EDM is our core business, and we have a large number of loyal customers — we are essentially a ‘jobbing’ shop. Because EDM is often at the end of the process chain, it is often difficult to predict work volumes in advance.

“To add more certainty to the business and to strengthen our position within customers’ supply chains, we wanted to create an in-house CNC machine shop. The outbreak of the pandemic, and the uncertainty this created, made this need more acute.”

‘Can do‘ attitude

She continued: “We appointed Jon in 2020 because, as a previous Erodatools’ customer, he already knew about and understood our business, and we were confident that he possessed the requisite skills, experience and ‘can do‘ attitude to make a success of the new venture.”

Another ‘first step’ in establishing Erodatools’ CNC machine shop involved the ‘freeing-up’ of physical space in the company’s facility to house the new CNC machines

She added: “We divested a number of our older EDM machines to create the additional space for the new resource. Our facility now has three distinct and discrete areas — wire EDM, solid sink EDM and the new CNC machine shop.”

Mr Harper said: “We wanted to offer a new value-added machining service, over and above our EDM services, to existing customers. From talking to these customers, we knew that as long as we could meet their quality, delivery and cost requirements, we would be in business.

“We also wanted to expand our customer base to include non-EDM users, and offer them the same, high-quality CNC milling and turning services. Our focus, for both types of customer, was on the machining of high-precision prototypes and one-offs, through to small-to-medium batch production.

He continued: “Before joining Erodatools, I had some knowledge and experience of Doosan machine tools. They are accurate and reliable and, in my experience, do not miss a beat. It is a similar positive story with Mills CNC - whose after-sales service and support is recognised as being among the best in the business.”

The Lynx 2100LSYB is an 8in chuck Fanuc-controlled compact lathe equipped with a 15kW, 4,500rev/min main spindle, a 5in chuck, 6,000rev/min sub-spindle, a 24-position 12-station turret, 6,000rev/min driven tooling capability and a +/-52.5mm Y-axis stroke.

Cutting-edge technology

Mr Harper continued: “The Lynx 2100LSYB is a multi-tasking lathe that, with its live tooling and sub-spindle, can machine small parts to completion in a single set up and operates as a de facto self-contained turning cell. The Lynx represents cutting-edge technology and makes us extremely competitive — exactly what we needed to win new business.”

Since installation the machine has been put through its paces machining a range of components made from an equally diverse range of materials - steel, stainless, aluminium, aluminium bronze alloys, Monel and Inconel.

“The machine is coping with everything we have thrown at it. Only recently it was being used for two days continuously to machine complex aluminium bronze parts to high precision.”

Subsequent Doosan machine tool investments this year have seen the arrival of a new DNM 6700 vertical machining centre and a new Lynx 2600Y lathe - one of the first to be installed in the UK.

MillsMeawhile, the Fanuc-controlled DNM 6700 was installed with a Nikken CNC 260LFA fourth-axis 260mm diameter rotary table and features a directly-coupled 12,000rev/min spindle, a 30-tool ATC and roller LM guideways.

The Lynx 2600Y, again with the latest advanced Fanuc control, is a 12in chuck lathe with a 18.5kW, 3,500rev/min spindle, a 24-station turret, 5,000rev/min mill/drill capability and a +/-52.5mm Y-axis stroke.

Mr Harper continued: “The new DNM 6700 and Lynx 2600Y have significantly increased our machining capacity and capabilities. All three Doosans are what can be called ‘sophisticated’ machines. They help to differentiate us in what is a crowded marketplace and enable us to machine parts faster, better and more economically than our competitors.”

Although still early days all indications are that Erodatools’ CNC machine shop is proving to be a resounding success.

Ms Healey concluded: “We are busy and the decision to set up the new resource and invest in the three new Doosan machines has been vindicated. We are now putting the finishing touches to the machine shop area - completing shelving and painting the floor - and will be recruiting a new machine operator.

“As far as future investments are concerned, we are monitoring the situation and, if demand continues, we could well be looking to automate our turning operations in the near future by investing in a new bar feeder.”