Compact machine adds capability for EDM
A new Nakamura-Tome AS200 turning and milling centre is helping EDM Precision Technologies add value for customers, bring subcontracted work back in-house and open up new opportunities in existing markets.
The machine was supplied by Turning Technologies, a member of the Engineering Technology Group.
EDM specialises in wire and spark electro-discharge machining, and the focus is on high precision, high quality and fast turnaround on high-value parts – often in exotic and expensive materials.
Managing Director Paul Waldron explains that the investment in the Nakamura turning centre brings a new, complementary, capability to the company.
“For a number of years, customers have been asking me why we didn’t do 5-axis machining, but I could see that if we went down that route we could easily start to become a 5-axis machining shop, which isn’t really what I wanted to do. I like the fact that we are an EDM company. But what I realised we were doing was putting out a lot of turning work to subcontractors.
“It seems to be the case that a lot of components that need EDM work need turning too. In a lot of cases a turned blank was being finished on an EDM machine, and we often had to get someone else to turn the blanks for us.
“So about a 9 months ago, when we were seriously looking to move to new premises, and we knew that we will have some extra space, we thought why don’t we invest in a turning machine?
“Rather than investing in a simple lathe, we wanted a turning centre that would enable us to mill features onto turned parts and produce more complex components in one hit prior to them being finished on one of our 15 CNC wire or spark erosion machines.
“This added capability enables us to ensure high quality, fast delivery and good value on a wider variety of complex parts.”
The Nakamura-Tome AS200 is a very fast and ultra-compact Y-axis machine with a lot of milling capability on a footprint of just 1,650mm by 1,600mm. It has a 65mm bar capacity and 8” chuck capacity, a 15-driven-tool turret, 5.5kW driven-tool power, 82mm Y-axis and a maximum turning length of 300mm.
Paul Waldron says: “Some of the parts that are coming off the AS200 now are really, really good. The parts are as precise as we have had made by who we consider to be the top motorsport turning subcontractors. Which is where we were having these parts made before. Even without the years of experience they have, the new machine has made us comparable on quality.”
He says that the machine has also allowed the company to go after more Formula One work.
“Formula One represents about 20% of our business and there were components for those customers that we were turning away as we would have been relying on outside subcontractors turning pre-edm blanks. – This was a problem, as you really don’t want to lose control of time critical jobs by putting an element of the work out to a third party. If you subcontract out a component for a race team you are putting yourself at risk, so we were turning that work away because we didn’t do turning in-house – now we can.”
Having control of the process also provides the possibility of improving it.
On one component, EDM used a subcontractor to produce a rough blank which then required a lot of wire eroding and some spark eroding to get to the finished part. Now, rather than wire eroding the bore and outside diameter, these can be turned to the required accuracy on the AS200.
“Now we can turn the bore and the outside diameter as accurately as the drawing requires rather than wire erode them. We only spark the bits that really need sparking, which will reduce our unit cost dramatically,” says Paul Waldron.
As Engineering Manager Roy Marks explains, the decision to choose the AS200 followed a fact-finding visit to MACH 2014.
“I was looking around the show and hadn’t really seen what I wanted, when my eye was drawn to a Bridgeport turret mill in Union Jack livery on the ETG stand. I cut my teeth on one of them, so I went over for a look. While I was on the stand I explained what I was looking for and they showed me the AS200.
“I thought it looked like a really nice machine, but all the machines I had seen that day that could do for us what the AS200 could do were in the region of £150,000. That just wasn’t on for us, so I explained this and was brought up short when I was told that I would probably get change out of £80,000.”
Price aside, Paul Waldron says that a decisive factor was the capability the machine could offer on a very compact footprint.
“The size of the machine lends itself to it being replicated. The machine is quite small, although it can do some reasonably large components – certainly big enough for anything we want to take on, but it has a very small footprint, which is very attractive for us. If we see that this part of the business is going well it would be very easy for us to say let’s get another one. I’m quite surprised how much we are already putting through it – and this is all work that we were sending out.”
He adds that the fact that Nakamura is a Japanese manufacturer was also important.
“We made a conscious decision many years ago at EDM to go with Japanese wire and spark erosion machines and we have had excellent experiences with these Japanese machine manufacturers. They never overstate what the machine is capable of. If they say it can do something it will do it comfortably.
“We also liked the fact that Nakamura only makes turning machines. They don’t make machining centres, they have really focused on their core capability. All their effort and investment is in making a really good turning centre. When we told people we were buying a Nakamura their reaction was that we were buying a machine as good as you are going to get.”
Founded in 1992, EDM Precision Engineering has been based at Silverstone since 1995 and moved to new larger premises right opposite the main entrance to Silverstone in June this year – with the new Nakamura AS200 following a month later. Clients include six Formula One teams as well as customers in industries as diverse as medical technology, defence, aerospace and nuclear engineering.
Paul Waldron says: “We moved because we ran out of space and were running out of capacity for our EDM business – our machines were full and we were turning work away. Now in addition to the AS200, we have also bought two more EDM machines – bringing our total up to 15. We now have sufficient space and room for our continued steady growth.”