Heavy duty 5 axis investment creates added value opportunity for metals specialist

Handtmann HBZ CompactCell 5 axis CNC machining centre.

Photographed at Wilsons factory in Sawtry, Cambridgeshire this Handtmann HBZ CompactCell 5 axis CNC machining centre produces part machined billets to near net shape.

A £1.5 million investment in a Handtmann HBZ CompactCell 5 axis simultaneous CNC machining centre by specialist metals supplier Wilsons Limited is integral to the business maintaining its position as the UK’s leading independent supplier of high-performance semi-finished metal and alloy billets and bars.

Supplied by the Southam, Warwickshire based Engineering Technology Group (ETG), the Handtmann HBZ machining centre now enables Wilsons to offer customers’ part machined billets to near net shape, saving high-value processing time, scrap removal and recycling.

Its twin pallet configuration provides flexible high-speed machining of aluminium and alloys ensuring competitive pricing through high productivity achieved with 5-sided machining in a single setup.  There is also the ability to load/unload parts and fixtures on to the second pallet while the machine is operational.

Wilsons is based in Sawtry, Cambridgeshire and although a metals supplier to the global manufacturing supply chain, manufacturing semi-machined aerospace aluminium grade work pieces is a significant part of its business. Aerospace supply is challenging with the need to keep pace and evolve to meet the exacting demands of its customers being high among Wilson’s priorities.

As Director and General Manager James Digby explains, “very often 90% of the material sold into the aerospace sector is turned into swarf so we offer a service that supplies a billet already 80% machined allowing the customer to focus on the high accuracy finish machining operations and increase their machining throughput without any considerable investment.

“The vast majority of bar and billet products that Wilsons supplies into aerospace is semi-finished in some way,” he adds.  “It is either cut to length, de-burred and chamfered, part marked or etched and now we are able to offer another added value service with a comprehensive component milling facility.

“We chose Handtmann as the machine supplier because it has a long established reputation for designing and manufacturing high precision, heavy duty machining centres that offer high spindle power and torque.  These features coupled with a generous workpiece machining capacity to accommodate large components influenced our decision to invest in the HBZ,” he explains

Combining heavy-duty capability with precision is epitomised by the HBZ CompactCell which has 4×1 metre twin pallets capable of accommodating workpieces up to the full pallet dimension.  It is especially suited to high-speed machining of aluminium.

Wilsons HBZ machine features a 30,000rpm, 64kW spindle with high chip removal rates. The spindle power creates estimated increases in productivity of up to 30% and a significant decrease of costs per part and machining times – features that give Wilsons a range of advantages to pass on to customers.

Wilsons Handtmann CompactCell

Wilsons Handtmann CompactCell can be loaded with its next workpiece while another is being machined.

Having twin pallets further contributes to improved productivity as a second workpiece can be loaded and prepared for machining while another is being machined.  This significantly reduces downtime between operations.

Supplied as a turnkey installation by ETG, the HBZ CompactCell’s horizontal machining format creates a robust, economic machining process especially suited to environments where high volume metal removal and productivity are necessary.

Horizontal machining minimises heat that is influencing the workpiece and thus provides better thermal stability to cope with the high volumes of swarf when machining complex parts with deep pockets and cavities.  Advanced swarf management has been developed whereby material cut from the workpiece is immediately transported out of the machining area via screw type conveyors to a rear exit.

As part of the turnkey, Wilsons also specified a RUF Briquetting machine,adding further efficiency to the machining process.

Among the benefits of briquetting swarf are the ability to reclaim cutting fluid, increase the metal yield, reduce chip volumes by up to 20% through compaction, improve chip handling and reduce chip storage areas.

“There are very few customers (and competitive stockists) that can offer the added-value capability that this machine gives us,” adds James Digby.  “The HBZ runs at 30,000rpm whereas most customer machines run at a third of that so we can remove bulk workpiece material three times faster while giving them a massive increase in capacity to process finish machining operations through their machining centres.

“In effect customers can focus on spindle time in the areas that earn them most money – final component machining rather than pre-machining.  We have also eliminated high volume swarf management from their cost base.”

On this application of the Handtmann machine, Graeme Thomas, Key Accounts Director at ETG comments

“Wilsons are making very good use of the exceptional capabilities of the HBZ. The machine offers a wealth of opportunities for those in the heavy duty but high precision machining sectors reducing machining times and costs per part and, as in this case, helping create a unique market position for a company.”

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