Mould making 5-axis machining centre and pallet loading system work in synergy

Editor: MA Alexander Stark

UK — Mould specialist Metalite Engineering has recently invested in a Quaser 5-axis UX500C machining centre and a 10-pallet Erowa Robot Easy 250 pallet loading system. Supplied and integrated by the Engineering Technology Group (ETG), the machine is adding further capacity capabilities with unmanned machining.

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The most recent arrival at Metalite is the UX500, which was purchased for medical sector work.
The most recent arrival at Metalite is the UX500, which was purchased for medical sector work.
(Source: Quasar)

The latest addition to the plant list of Metalite Engineering is just the latest arrival from ETG, with previous acquisitions including five Bridgeport XR1000 3-axis machining centres, a Quaser UX600 5-axis machining centre and a Quaser UX500. The most recent arrival, the UX500 was purchased for medical sector work; however, the Wiltshire manufacturer is also highly regarded for its ability to service customers in the aerospace, automotive, F1, food packaging and horticultural industries.

The Quaser UX500C has 60 tools and a 15,000 Maxia spindle with a face and taper dual contact system for maximum rigidity. The machine also has rigid knuckle type axis rotation to provide full machining access around the part. This is complemented by a high level of precision that is assured by the linear scales and probing system. Metalite needs this flexibility and precision as they are making a range of parts from small medical components where they are looking to hold 5 microns right the way up to larger tool steel die pieces. This is why there is a crane system on the automation system to load larger billets. This provides the customer with the facility to undertake a full variation of work, says ETG’s Steve Brown.

The reason the company opted for the Quaser and Erowa combination is that they felt it offered more flexibility and future-proofed their business and machine acquisition strategy. This is because despite being stand-alone pieces of equipment, the Quaser UX500C and Erowa Robot Easy 250 work in synergy. Furthermore, the automation system can be moved to another machine at a later point if required.

The scalability of the solution makes it future-proof, as it can be expanded if required. The Erowa system can be taken off the Quaser machine and put on another machine, for instance.

“Manufacturers that generally tend to look at this type of machine are already focused on a particular project. It may be a three or a 10-year project, as there is a life cycle to these projects, and when it comes to the end of these projects’ manufacturers may look at what other projects they can put through the cell. Companies may need more or larger pallets or a different form of workholding — that is where we can come in and remove the automation unit and put another system on the machine. The route of any project that we discuss with customers will deliver the desired outcome, but any project can grow arms and legs, and this is where we can develop the solution for Metalite in the future.”

“The Erowa is a pick and place system with 10 pallets, and it has a very simple job of picking a pallet and loading it into the Quaser machine. In terms of how that is managed, it is all controlled via the Heidenhain CNC on the machine tool that controls the Erowa system as a slave unit. The program is loaded into the machine and that calls upon the pallet that it is requesting. Customers can go a step further and have software installed on the Erowa, so if you are running through the course of the night unmanned and a drill or a tool breaks, the software will identify what feature on what component is affected and also identify the tool that is broken. This lets you know what particular pallet and tools need to be replaced,” continues Steve.

Looking to the future ETG’s Steve Brown concludes: “The success of this installation has already seen Metalite order a second system. It is a slightly different concept to this installation; the next arrival will be applied to a 3-axis vertical machining centre whereby the robot loading system will incorporate 4-pallets. The customer has seen what this system has provided after an initial period and also the opportunity for expansion on other machines.”

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