Case Study Turning out the shop lights with equipment upgrades

Editor: Eric Culp

Investments in new machining centres and cutting tools from Taegutec have allowed staff at a UK company to walk out on production.

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The addition of machining equipment and cutting tools have allowed for hands-off machining whether the lights are on or off.
The addition of machining equipment and cutting tools have allowed for hands-off machining whether the lights are on or off.
(Source: Taegutec)

In November 2011, Norjon Engineers Ltd, Gosport, UK, moved into a new facility and acquired two new machine tools. It was the latest step in an investment of over £1m in less than two years that has contributed to the company growing by almost 50% this year. The growth has been underpinned by investment in high-quality machine tools that include the delivery of a Mazak Integrex i400 turning centre and a Hermle C40 machining centre.

See: German precision toolmakers expect no sales growth this year

Retooling provides option of producing at night

The growth at the company is attributed to new machine tools that have enabled the business to now run lights-out machining. The additional unmanned machine hours that have let Norjon start a night shift are also being supported by cutting tools from South Korean supplier Taegutec, said to be another major factor behind the company's success. In the last three years, the investment in technology and a highly skilled workforce have taken staff levels from 17 to almost 30. This investment now brings the total of Hermle 5-axis machining centres from distributor George Kingsbury to four machines. Historically producing gear components, seals for ship propulsion units and automotive test rigs, the company has diversified into the aerospace, automotive, food packaging, hydraulics and power generation sectors and it also makes thermoforming moulds. With the company increasing its workload and diversifying, the complexity and range of parts have gradually increased. Now producing anything from one-offs to batches of 20-plus from aluminium, stainless steel, titanium, inconel and other difficult materials, the company has needed to investigate new tooling suppliers to meet the high specifications of its machine tools. To this end, the company invited a Taegutec representative to review its machining processes and tooling philosophies. The first tool to be tested was from the Taegutec ChaseMill range of milling cutters on an aluminium hovercraft component. It was said to immediately make an impact by raising speeds and feeds as well as improving tool life and surface finish. Another benefit was that aluminium and steel inserts could be used in the cutter for additional flexibility whilst reducing tooling costs versus solid carbide cutters.

Correct materials choices add to tool life, cut cycle times

The TT9030 grade also produced benefits. Milling inconel keys for a marine customer, Norjon was previously using 2-3 sets of inserts per batch of 50 keys. The switch reportedly only required one set of TT9030 inserts per batch. The tool life gain reduced costs while eliminating downtime for insert changes. Added to this, the cycle time on the inconel job fell from one hour to 30 minutes per key. Such results led to the use of the 16 mm 5XD T-Drill on a number of turned parts, where tool life was extended by over 50% and surface finish was improved. Taegutec has recently introduced the new DrillRush series of head-exchangeable drills with the new TT9080 insert grade. Despite being a relatively new addition for Norjon, the DrillRush is said to be delivering reduced cycle times and improved tool life.

With regard to turning on its new Mazak Integrex, Norjon is keen to use the new Taegutec PC Chipbreaker tool holder with the new TT9225 Gold Rush grade. Norjon Managing Director Kevin Fox said, “We have been using the Taegutec MC Chipbreaker for some time with excellent results, but the new PC Chipbreaker improves swarf control, which in turn permits higher speeds and feeds. With many of our turned parts being relatively small in size and in small batch runs, the benefits are less visible. However, the new Mazak has a capacity to turn up to 1100 mm in length and 650 mm in diameter, and we foresee a lot of large parts being machined on the Mazak. It is the large stainless steel and Duplex parts with significant material removal that will benefit from the new PC Chipbreaker. It has improved cycle times by over 20% on small parts with tool life and surface finish being outstanding. I am confident that with larger parts we will reap the potential productivity benefits from the Taegutec range.”

Machining centres can run unattended

Fox emphasised that the increase in tool life plays an important role at Norjon. “We machine our parts in one hit and having to stop a job mid-cycle for a tool change is not a productive option. Additionally, this improved tool life is what underpins our ability to run a skeleton shift on nights. If tool consistency and life were an issue, we would struggle to operate a night shift without fully manning the machines. So, Taegutec has been a major contributor to our growth.

“The Taegutec tools have also improved confidence. Consistent performance ensures that our staff can run a set number of parts before a tool change is needed and this eradicates a need to constantly man a machine when producing batch runs. The performance, tool life and cost reductions have been major successes for our business, and we have now acquired a TaeguTec CTMS tool management system to ensure we have the full TaeguTec tooling package,” Fox said.

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