Hardinge investment keeps Kepston in poll position

KepstonWithin months of installing a new Bridgeport vertical machining centre and a Hardinge high productivity turning centre, the Aldridge, West Midlands operations of specialist engineers Kepston Limited have reported cost savings of at least £10,000. These are in addition to major improvements in productivity and the company’s ability to improve response times as a result of bringing their turning and milling operations under their own roof. Traditionally a precision grinding operation with a reputation as one of the UK’s leading exponents in hard grinding, Kepston has in recent times been investing heavily in both its facilities and its machine tools. It has embarked on a significant £1M plus upgrade and expansion of its facilities in Aldridge, the first phase of which has seen the completion of a major new CNC machining facility with the ambient temperature controlled to +/- 1°C and in which all of Kepston’s soft machining operations are undertaken.  Precisely maintaining the working temperature ensures that workpiece materials, having been ‘soaked’ to bring them to the correct workable temperature, then maintain those levels to ensure absolute precision machining. Of the two new machines the Hardinge GS 51A is a compact high-productivity lathe, equipped with integrated automation and featuring a Siemens 828 control. In addition to the machine’s robust cast iron base, heavy-duty linear guides and advanced ball screw technology ensure high part accuracy and repeatability leading to excellent surface finish and optimised stock removal.  The GS 51A’s productivity is enhanced by an integrated straight-line gantry system (with fast traverse rates) for rapid load/unload of work pieces and finished parts. The Bridgeport XR 1000 VMC is a high-specification vertical machining centre especially suited to machining larger work pieces and is equipped with a Nikken 4th axis with 1 metre capacity.  It has thermal compensation, high performance spindle technology from Weiss with a grease replenishing system, a 30 position ATC, latest generation Siemens 828 controls, tried and tested through spindle coolant delivery and a swarf management system that includes a chip conveyor. The addition of these machines will enable Kepston to offer a broader range of processes to existing customers as well as opening up new markets by offering new services and reducing lead times as more of the process is under its direct control. Kepston’s main markets include aerospace, defence, motor sport (including F1) food processing and general precision engineering.  A common feature of all customers are high demands in terms of tolerances, quality and fast turnaround. Managing Director Brent Millage explains; “Traditionally we are a specialist jig grinding company and most of our machining is of the low volume high precision nature.  But as every manufacturer will tell you there is always an emphasis on keeping costs under control and we were conscious that we were becoming increasingly reliant on outside suppliers for a lot of our general (non grinding) machining operations. “Nothing wrong with that but if we were to bring these processes in house we would have greater control of the operations, more flexibility and we would save costs.  It will also give the capacity and capability to seek out new markets. “And that is why we invested in these two Hardinge machines which are already creating a positive impact. The Hardinge GS 51A will cope with all of our basic turning requirements while the XR 1000 is a high spec machine that can accommodate larger workpieces. “We opted for Hardinge because of our positive long term experiences with their sister company Jones and Shipman.  Knowing this was a new diversion for us they recommended we talk with Hardinge first and they ticked all the boxes from price to quality and delivery. “With the new factory completed we installed the machines in the early autumn of 2011 and started working them in mid October.  And already we estimate they have produced cost savings on over £10,000.  That has to be a result. “We regard ourselves as a 1 micron manufacturer,” concludes Brent Millage.  “We are all about very high precision and small batch machining with a high value.   We have a reputation for this type of work and it is vital to our customers that we stay at the forefront of technology - not just in grinding but in the allied areas.

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