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Neptune breaks the mould with EDM investment

Manufacturer reduces lead times, the time to spark and the wear on electrodes’ with a range of Sodick machines at its disposal

Posted on 18 May 2024. Read 688 times.
Neptune breaks the mould with EDM investmentA row of Sodick machines at Neptune Injection

Neptune Injection, one of the UK’s leading injection moulding and mould tooling companies, has invested in two new Sodick AD35L machines at its facility in Stevenage. Part of Neptune Engineering, the company has grown rapidly with the support of Sodick Europe and sole UK distributor Sodi-Tech EDM.

The very first Sodick machine was installed at Neptune Injection 12 years ago and now boasts an inventory of two AD35L die-sink EDM machines, a compact high-performance Sodick VL400Q wire EDM, the market’s most precise entry-level machine — a VZ300L with linear motor drives and linear scales, and an AD30L die-sink EDM. This rapid uptake in Sodick EDM technology was set in motion in 2010 when Gary Statham took over the business that has now been in operation for over 40 years.

Mr Statham said: “The relationship with Sodick goes back to when I was an apprentice and we used their machines. I then worked for another mould maker in the early 2000s and that company also had Sodick spark erosion machines. When I took over this business, the company had a different brand of spark erosion technology and the electrode wear was really high with very long machining times. We knew from carrying out test cuts with Sodick that we could reduce our lead times, reduce the time to spark and reduce the wear on electrodes.

“This meant that we would need fewer electrodes to do each job and the result would be less machining time on our machining centres that produce the electrodes, creating additional savings in another department.”

SodickPictured right: complex components being manufactured with simplicity on the Sodick machines

Now with more than 20 staff, ISO:9001-accreditation and a lights-out manufacturing capability at the Hertfordshire business, Mr Statham reflected: “When we started, there were just three of us at Neptune. I spoke to the sales engineer at Sodi-Tech as I wanted Sodick machines based on my experience at previous companies. The Sodi-Tech engineer looked at the size of our company and helped us formulate a package deal that came within our budget and time constraints.

“Sodi-Tech also provided additional training for our staff, helping us hugely along the way. When we needed back up, we would call Sodi-Tech and they would send a training engineer to us — the service is exceptional and the machine and after-sales service have been great.”

It is this remarkable level of service for the industry-leading EDM machines that has seen the relationship flourish. Sodi-Tech director of sales Greg Capp added: “Over 12 years ago, Neptune approached us with the need for a machine for a specific job — we delivered that machine. Since then, its business has grown and Neptune Injection is not replacing machines but investing in new technology, which is growing its business even further. Neptune Injection works in a range of different business areas and is after the same thing in all of these business segments — high accuracy, high surface finishes and repeatability. With Sodick we can achieve all of these things.”

Mr Statham continued: “We are a high-precision toolmaking business and that is why we use Sodick. They are high-precision machine tools that give us the accuracy we require for the features that we are spark eroding.”

Mr Capp added: “From a small business to where Neptune Injection is now, it demonstrates our great working relationship and that Gary trusts Sodick. This trust is built upon the knowledge that the customer can get the same quality parts every single time when they use Sodick machines. The die-sink and wire-erosion machines work hand-in-hand and the operating system is the same, so the staff using the machines can pick it up easily and interchange from one machine to another.”

Sodick 2Pictured left: electrodes used at Neptune Injection

Recalling the transformation of the manufacturing sector and how Sodick’s advanced technologies and innovations have enabled Neptune to be efficient, productive and competitive, Mr Statham explained: “The lead times and prices on jobs can be so aggressive, so it is very important to get it right. Around 15 to 20 years ago, you would be quoting 16 to 20-week lead-times for a job, now customers are expecting delivery in six, eight or 10 weeks. To achieve this, you need to have a machine that is extremely efficient and can give you exceptional surface finishes and precision very quickly.

The Sodick machines have linear motors, so the positional accuracy of the electrode is ‘spot on’ and within 2µm. The surface finish goes down to a zero VDI, which means for a lot of the work we do, we do not have to hand polish afterwards. This enables us to finish the entire job on the spark eroder — reducing our lead times, our internal costs and reducing our external costs for polishing, thereby increasing our profitability.”

Summarising how the Sodick EDM technology has enhanced manufacturing operations at Neptune, Mr Statham said: “The footprint of the machine is small in comparison to the work envelope and this is great for us, as we do not have the biggest facility. Furthermore, the manufacturing time is much faster than it is with other machine tool suppliers. What sets the Sodick machines apart from the competition is the repeatability, you can also achieve great surface finishes with a very fast cutting time.

“On machine tools from other brands, you need more electrodes to spark the jobs, which adds time and cost. On the wire machines, you often need to make additional cuts around the metalwork. So, rather than doing a job in three cuts, you may need to do four or five cuts to get the finished part — this extends the production time on other machines. On the Sodick EDM’s, we know that in three cuts we can achieve the impeccable precision and surface finishes that we need.”