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Living and breathing continuous improvement

Posted on 28 Jun 2022 and read 961 times
Living and breathing continuous improvementHaydock-based Mechlam Precision Tooling Ltd, a leading precision mould tool, fixturing and sub-contract manufacturing specialist, has invested in two, new high-performance Mikron machining centres with Heidenhain controls supplied by GF Machining Solutions, a manufacturer of milling, EDM and additive manufacturing machine tools.

A MILL E 700U simultaneous five-axis machine, equipped with an integrated seven-station automatic pallet changer (APC), along with a large-capacity three-axis VCE 1200 Pro, were installed at the company’s 8,000ft2 facility last autumn.

Since installation, the machines have been put to work machining a range of complex, high-precision parts — that includes complex and intricate components for mould tools, which are made from a wide range of materials including aluminium alloys, tool steels, stainless steels, Inconels and plastics.

A hallmark of Mechlam, and one that helps explain the company’s continuing success and the strong position it occupies in many of its customers’ supply chains, is the quality of the components it is able to machine — achieving exacting tolerances of +/-5µm and surface finishes down to Ra 0.2µm, are the rule — not the exception.

The two new Mikron machines have taken their place alongside a number of the company’s previously-acquired GF Machining Solutions’ machines that include both high-speed and universal Mikron three-axis machining centres and AgieCharmilles advanced wire and die-sink EDM machines.

Martin Atherton, Mechlam Precision Tooling’s owner and director, said: “We have always invested in GF Machining Solutions’ technology. The machines are reliable, represent great value and deliver the accuracy, repeatability and surface finishes that our customers demand.”

Large capacity

“The powerful, large capacity VCE1200 Pro, with its 18kW/16,000rev/min spindle has increased our machining capacity and enables us to process large mould tool parts and precision components; its large 1,220 x 620mm worktable means we can also comfortably machine multiple smaller components, using innovative and productivity-boosting fixtures, in a single set-up too.”

Mr Atherton added: “Although the company’s focus, initially, was on the mould tool and die sector we have, in recent years, diversified and expanded our capabilities so that now we also provide a high-quality sub-contract machining service to customers operating in the automotive, medical, aerospace, motorsport and general engineering sectors. To ensure we are competitive and are able to meet customers’ stringent delivery deadlines, we invest in multi-tasking machines with integrated automation.”

This strategy has led to the latest Mechlam investment in a high-performance turning centre with Y-axis and driven tooling capabilities and, more recently, in the new MILL E 700U.

The MILL E 700U five-axis machine is equipped with a powerful and thermally-stable APC. It also features 30m/min rapids and a directly-driven rotary/tilting table which, through its robust design and responsive dynamics, ensures high workpiece quality and optimised process reliability.

Mr Atherton explained: “The MILL E 700U gives us simultaneous five-axis machining capabilities which enables us to machine complex and intricate features and details on mould tool parts and precision components that cannot be achieved, quickly or easily, using 3 + 2 operations.

GM Machining Sols“Furthermore, because we can machine parts to completion in a single set up on the MILL E 700U, processing times are reduced, production bottlenecks are avoided, accuracy is maintained because parts do not need to be transferred between machines.”

The productivity and efficiency gains delivered by the MILL E 700U have been amplified with the integration of the workpiece pallet changer.

Mr Atherton said: “Using innovative, multi-sided fixturing, we load up the machine’s seven pallets at the end of each day to get up to 12hr additional lights-out, unattended operation. The ability to run unattended helps reduce the cost per part and dramatically improves the return on investment.”

Mr Atherton concluded: “We made the decision to invest in the two new Mikron machining centres during the pandemic because we needed to improve our milling capacity and capabilities and the acquisition would enable us to grow the precision sub-contract machining side of the business, which was extremely buoyant, without compromising our ability to respond to our mould tool customers.”

“Now we are getting back to normal, and business from our mould making customers has returned, the decision to invest in new machines has been vindicated: — we are stronger, more capable and more productive than ever.”

As part of its continuous improvement programme, Mechlam constantly monitors and benchmarks its performance – identifying and addressing weaknesses when and where they are found.

Later this year, the company will upgrade its wire EDM capabilities by investing in a new high-precision AgieCharmilles CUT P 350 Pro machine and intends to expand and modernise its inspection department.