Solihull-based precision manufacturing specialist - Midland Precision Equipment Co Ltd (MPE), has recently invested in a new Mikron HPM 450U high-performance 5-axis machining centre from GF Machining Solutions.
The machine, installed at the company’s 13,500sq ft facility in August 2014, is the fifth Mikron 5-axis machine tool to be acquired by MPE in the last seven years and reflects the company’s commitment to continuous improvement by investing in the latest advanced manufacturing technologies.
Since being installed the HPM 450U has been (and continues to be) used to machine complex, high-precision and technically-challenging civil aero-engine components (e.g. housings, fuel pump bodies, impellers, blisks etc.), in small volumes from a range of materials including aerospace steels and aluminium etc.
The new HPM 450U was purchased to provide the company with much needed additional 5-axis machining capacity due to a number of its already established aerospace (mainly OEM) customers significantly ramping-up their production requirements.
Explains MPE’s managing director, Adam Ormandy:
“Although we welcomed the new work we knew that it would stretch our existing 5-axis machining capacity. Rather than try to make do with what we had - we made the decision to invest in another 5-axis machine.”
Naturally enough the first port of call for MPE was GF Machining Solutions as they had already supplied the company with four Mikron machines.
Continues Adam Ormandy:
“We have a good working relationship with GF, and have always been impressed with their applications and technical support and after-sales services, as well as with the performance and reliability of their Mikron milling machines”.
MPE, first established in 1941, works closely with its customers from prototype design through to full part production.
The company is heavily involved in its customers’ NPI (New Product Introduction) initiatives, and works in conjunction with them to design and develop robust and repeatable manufacturing processes and procedures for specific parts/families of parts.
MPE’s perspective regarding NPI is to create production layouts, inspection control plans, CNC and CMM programmes etc., as early as possible in every NPI project – the objective being to effectively create a sealed manufacturing process.
Explains Adam Ormandy:
“It was important that the new machine was equipped with the Heidenhain iTNC 530 control in the first instance as this was the approved CNC control system and would enable programs and parts to be transferred between our 5-axis machines.
Other key determinants affecting the machine selection concerned the machine’s spindle capabilities and its integrated automation features.
MPE currently requires its machines to run unattended, and in the future will further expand its existing lights-out operations.
To ensure these objectives could be achieved it was important the new machine had a good-sized automatic tool changer and automatic work-piece pallet changer.
A final concern was the machine’s ability to provide full simultaneous 5-axis, instead of just 3 + 2, machining capability.
MPE in truth were keen to invest in a second Mikron Vario 5-axis machine but were informed by GF Machining Solutions that this machine tool range had been discontinued and had been superseded by the new HPM 450U series.
Remembers Adam Ormandy:
“This was not a problem per se, and we were able to specify a high-performance HPM 450U equipped with a 20,000rpm spindle; a 10-station integrated work-piece pallet changer; a large 170-position ATC; through-spindle coolant capability and an on-board tool breakage and measurement system.”
The machine was delivered on time, and with technical support from GF Machining Solutions’ application engineers, was soon cutting metal.