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Automated mill-turn cell halves cutting cycles and operations

Posted on 16 Nov 2023. Read 1624 times.
Automated mill-turn cell halves cutting cycles and operationsHaigh Engineering staff pictured with the Hermle C 42 UMT/HS Flex Heavy. Right to left: Neil Phillips, production manager; Jeremy Allen, machine shop manager; Lewis Margrett, machine operator

Ross-on-Wye-based Haigh Engineering, a British designer and manufacturer of bedpan macerators for healthcare institutions as well as sewage treatment systems for municipal water companies, has upgraded the capacity on its shopfloor with the installation of a German-built, five-axis Hermle C 42 UMT prismatic machining cell with turning capability.

Included are a multi-level tool magazine for holding 50 tools in addition to the standard 42 tools, making a total of 92, and a six-pallet storage system served by a three-axis HS Flex Heavy robot for automatically transferring pallets with a maximum capacity of 1,200kg into the working area and returning them after components have been machined. The cell was delivered in September 2022 by Kingsbury, sole UK agent for the German manufacturer.

Haigh Engineering’s production manager Neil Phillips said: “When buying new machine tools, we always look for the best equipment available and are delighted to have added this new Hermle C 42 cell. As well as allowing for future capacity increase and improved reliability, the Hermle C 42 has enabled us to take two older, less efficient machining centres off-line. These are a horizontal-spindle model that has now been scrapped and a vertical-spindle, three-axis machine that is being phased out.”

In 2021, Haigh Engineering identified the opportunity to upgrade. After considerable research, three suppliers were shortlisted based on their expertise within the required metal cutting applications. Additionally, Mr Phillips and machine shop manager Jeremy Allen visited a business on the South Coast that has extensive experience with Hermle equipment, including a C 42 UMT. As well as the machine being the optimal size for the planned work, the integrated six-pallet robotic loading system with the option to extend it, the Heidenhain control and the reputation of Kingsbury for UK-based support all swayed the decision.

Kingsbury provided Haigh Engineering with advice and support throughout the installation process. Even though the Hermle C 42 needed to be lifted through Haigh’s factory roof, no small exercise, the project was completed within target dates, with successful commissioning and operator training provided by the Kingsbury team.

Haigh EngineeringPictured right: machining area of the five-axis Hermle C 42 UMT, showing the swivelling trunnion carrying a rotary table that provides the two additional CNC axes

A majority of the throughput involves machining of castings, mainly iron but also stainless steel and aluminium, ranging in size from 400mm high x 600mm square down to 150mm dia x 150mm long. Some weigh as much as 250kg.

While the machine is currently attended full time, as the setters optimise usage, the intention is to set up multiple parts on the six pallets and run the system lights-out. Some unattended machining is already achieved at the end of each day shift by loading a raw casting that requires 60min or more of metal-cutting time, allowing production to continue past normal working hours.

Before the arrival of the Hermle cell, the production process for most components, when the former machining centres were in use, involved two prismatic machining operations on either of them, preceded by two turning operations on lathes. With the provision of a torque table on the C 42 UMT, turning is now done in-cycle, so parts come off complete after just two operations. Overall, actual metal cutting time is about half compared with the equivalent machining cycles on the older mills. Moreover, only one inversion of the component at the HS Flex Heavy set-up station is required, rather than the three subsequent processes as previously, saving even more time.

The pallet store is controlled and managed by HACS, Hermle’s automation control system, which enables smart order management via the touchscreen. It will be linked to Haigh Engineering’s MRP system, as with other machine tools on site which allows production orders to be sent directly to the machine, providing improved job sequencing and optimising output. Furthermore, the resulting availability of more and better data, especially of machine utilisation, will continue to enhance the manufacturer’s operational efficiency going forward.