When the old EDM equipment is not fast enough anymore, erosion is often the bottleneck in production. UK-based Neptune Engineering invested in a new die-sinking model that is able to work 50% faster than its predecessor.
With over 40 years of history, the future changed for Neptune Engineering in 2010 when Gary Statham took over the business from his father. Demonstrating impressive ambition, he relocated the company to much larger premises (twice the size) and began investing in a host of new manufacturing technologies, including (in 2013) a Sodick VZ300 wire EDM and Sodick AD30L die-sink EDM. This capacity has now been bolstered by the introduction of the AD35L die-sink model.
“Due to increasing orders, we were encountering a bottleneck in our die-sink EDM processes,” states Mr Statham. “We had an ageing machine that needed replacing, so the decision was taken to invest. Having had such good performance from our existing Sodick machines over the past five years, we decided to return to Sodi-Tech EDM.”
As luck would have it, soon after the AD35L had been installed, a significant order arrived from one of Neptune’s electrical industry customers for a series of six-cavity injection moulds. The tools are used to mould domestic plugs, sockets and switches for a major electrical brand.
“The timing could not have been better – as the new Sodick is at least 50% faster than the machine it replaced, we have been able to process the tooling much quicker,” says Mr Statham. “The machine will be busy on this work for a number of months to come.”
Each mould tool and insert is complex, as plugs, sockets and switches typically contain features such as compound curvatures, blended radii and freeform surfaces. The cavities and inserts produced by the new Sodick AD35L are all manufactured from tool steels such as H13 to tolerances within ±0.01mm. Moreover, the company typically seeks a “zero finish”, essentially a polished surface that does not require any secondary operations; a factor that is readily accommodated by the AD35L.
Polished surfaces without any secondary operation
This is important as Neptune is synonymous with quality, a position attained by successfully combining extensive industry knowledge with the use of modern technology and ongoing investment. The company’s multi-skilled and experienced staff offer optimum flexibility from the initial design stages through to project completion and validation. A full turnkey solution for all moulding requirements is offered, with in-house design and moulding services.
“Although we have a wealth of knowledge and experience in precision engineering, mould tool manufacture and injection moulding, there’s a lot of competition out there,” admits Mr Statham. “As a result, we find ourselves working quite hard to balance quality, speed and price, not just in the electrical sector, but across all the industries that we serve, which include medical, thin-walled packaging and automotive. We’ve had a good couple of years, so the time was right to invest in another machine that could take us to the next level in terms of capacity and performance.”
Competition makes investment and innovation inevitable
Mr Statham says that, ultimately, the new die-sink machine has made the company more efficient, which in turn has helped to reduce lead-times for the benefit of customers.
“Everyone wants tools that are quicker, cheaper and more accurate, and we can only achieve this by continuing to invest in the latest manufacturing technologies such as the Sodick AD35L,” he says. “The machine has been spot-on since it arrived in terms of both speed and quality – the finishes are so good. We also experience far less wear in comparison with older machines.”
Mr Statham finishes off with a positive word about Sodi-Tech EDM’s customer support, which he says has been excellent throughout their relationship: “Sodi-Tech EDM always offer the personal touch and solve any occasional issues very quickly. We know from experience that many other machine tool suppliers do not offer such a high level of service.”