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Nakamura boosts throughput for sub-contractor

BD Precision Engineers invests in new turn-mill centre that is 40% more productive than the company’s existing turning centres

Posted on 30 Oct 2023 and read 743 times
Nakamura boosts throughput for sub-contractorThe compact new AS200 being operated by one of the BD Precision Engineers staff

Leighton Buzzard-based BD Precision Engineers Ltd, a company that has been in business for more than 50 years, prides itself in providing high-quality precision manufactured components. Manufacturing anything from prototypes to series production runs in the thousands, the company has recently enhanced is capability with a Nakamura Tome AS200MYF turn/mill centre supplied by the Engineering Technology Group (ETG).

The recent arrival of the AS200MYF turn/mill centre with a 1m Samsys bar feed demonstrates the company’s philosophy of continued investment in new plant and machinery. As the manufacturer’s largest single investment in machinery to date, the AS200MYF marks a step forward in the type of machining processes the ISO:9001 business can now offer while also increasing its capacity.

As a business passed down the family, BD Precision is now owned by managing director Andrew Fogden and his wife Debbie. Since Mr Fogden joined the family business in the late 1980s, it has shifted from being a small sub-contract machine shop with a handful of manual mills, drills and a surface grinder to a full CNC facility with the Nakamura-Tome turn/mill centre now at its heart.

BD Precision has always primarily been a milling facility and previously had two CNC turning centres at its disposal. However, the nine-employee company recognised that one two-axis turning centre was doing much of the turning work, producing small batches and production runs up to a few hundred-off with the second machine operating as a ‘jobbing lathe‘. With the primary turning centre at full capacity and a lot of turning work being transferred to the prismatic department for secondary operations, the company needed to boost both capacity and capability.

BD Precision EngineersPictured right: Work envelope of the Nakamura

Recalling the decision to purchase a new turning centre, Mr Fogden said: “As a company that operates a 10-hr day shift, our two-axis turning centre was running non-stop and any downtime would create serious capacity issues for our business. We produce a lot of mast-climbing rollers for the construction industry and these almost fill our turning capacity; we needed a solution that would alleviate capacity and support growth. We looked at four different machine tool vendors for a compact CNC turning centre that would fit into a limited floor area. We did not want to get rid of any of our existing machines and space was particularly tight. Despite the limited available floor area, we wanted a machine that was going to give our business an extra dimension — the Nakamura-Tome AS200MYF was the solution.”

The company manufactures a variety of work for the aerospace, defence, rail, scientific and laboratory sectors as well as for the construction and automotive industries. To facilitate the variety of materials, tight dimensional tolerances and the complexity of components going through the turning department, a large envelope machine with Y axis milling and a small footprint was a must.

He added: “Out of the machines we looked at, the Nakamura was by far the best machine. It has a 65mm bar capacity with a maximum workpiece length of up to 300mm and a distance between centres of 427mm, which gave us all the capacity we needed. Additionally, the specification versus cost made the Nakamura a ‘hands-down’ winner — when you add in the impeccable reputation of the Nakamura brand, it really was a no-brainer.”

As soon as the AS200MYF landed in April, there was an initial bedding-in period before the machine made an impact. Mr Fogden continued: “The machine is supplied with a Fanuc CNC and most of our existing machines have Heidenhain controls. Despite the transition to a new CAM system and CNC system on a completely new machine configuration — the impact of the machine after the initial learning curve has been tremendous.”

BD Precision Engineers 2Pictured left: a part with a complex flange is now turned in one operation on the Nakamura AS200

Mr Fogden continued: “The Nakamura is at least 40% more productive than our existing turning centres — and that is during our learning curve. We will increase our productivity rates, the more we become familiar with the machine. Another major benefit has come from the Y-axis milling. We can get parts off the machine in one hit, previously we had to transfer a lot of parts to our milling department for secondary finishing. The capacity the Nakamura has created in our milling department is incredible.”

The Y-axis milling facility on the Nakamura has virtually eliminated all secondary finishing operations in the milling department and opened new opportunities for BD Precision. Mr Fogden said: “We manufacture a lot of turned parts that require cross-drilling and milling. Here, the Nakamura has completely eliminated the need for secondary operations. This ability to complete jobs in one hit has enabled us to compete for and win new business that we knew we could not previously complete.

“We have also won new business based on our ability to compete on both short lead times and price. There is one particular project we have recently won that requires the machining of complex-shaped flanges with holes on a PCD (pitch circle diameter). Previously, we would have done it in two operations, using a lathe and then a mill, but this was not cost-competitive. With the Nakamura, we have won the order and our impressive cycle times and competitive pricing will lead to more work with this new customer.”

He expalined: “One-hit machining has eliminated any opportunity for deviation and error in our batch production, considerably improving our overall quality. Furthermore, the stability and rigidity of the Nakamura have drastically improved our surface finishes. The tooling turret on our existing turning centre is a VDI configuration and the Nakamura has a BMT tooling turret — this is far more rigid, stable and our surface finishes on the AS200 are far superior than ever before. This is also making a marked improvement on our tool life with tooling longevity increasing and costs reducing.”

Mr Fogden concluded: “The Nakamura-Tome AS200 has improved our quality ‘no-end’ and our productivity, capability and throughput have also improved considerably. We are absolutely delighted we bought the Nakamura from ETG. The machine is a ‘door opener’ for our business, and as we take on more business, we will certainly be looking for further high-end machine tool investments like the Nakamura.”