SORALUCE installs a new SP milling machine in the energy sector26-03-2012
Worcester-based Joy Mining has taken delivery of a 5-axis SORALUCE SP 8000 travelling column universal milling/machining centre from T W Ward CNC Machinery. The machine has replaced an ageing Butler Elgamill CNC universal bed mill, which was used to machine castings, as well as flame-cut large plates. A key feature of the company's work, of which 80% is exported, is small batch manufacture parts, requiring complex machining cycles – batches rarely exceed four-off. The expertise of its production engineers is key in delivering such parts competitively. As Robert Wilks, production engineering manager, explains: 'Because much of our work is small batch and very diversified, the extensive skills of our setters and operators are key to not only running the machines, but also for tooling up, programming and for taking complete responsibility for the manufacturing tasks.' And in searching for a new replacement machine tool, Joy Mining was adamant it had to allow the company to gain maximum advantage from the strength of its skill base. Installed in September, the SORALUCE SP 8000 has halved cycle times and reduced tool costs on the castings and plates, while its ability to produce other components, such as large gearbox housings, has also been exploited. The machine's Heidenhain iTNC530 with conversational interface provides the two setter/operators that man the SORALUCE around the clock with an ideal solution to prepare and program the next scheduled component while the machine works through the existing product cycle. Says day shift operator Ean Stamp: 'As cycle times vary between one hour to two days , we have ample time to work together and incorporate our machining experience in planning the next task, while overseeing the cycle that's being run. This may not achieve the fastest cycle time, but ensures the part fully conforms to requirements.' Based on a 50-acre site, the 250-employee company produces components for armoured face conveyors, large gear cases, sprocket ring gears, framed components for powered roof assemblies and hydraulic rams, as well as performs assembly tasks on a range of large valves. As part of the justification, Ward CNC had to ensure the machine met the specific requirements of Joy Mining's management team against five other competitor machine suppliers. In addition, other key elements in the selection, justification and purchase of the machine included its ability to operate in a self-contained, cell-type environment, as well as the pedigree of the builder and the supplier's proven service record. With all other areas satisfied, the final hurdle was machining trials, carried out at SORALUCE's HQ in Spain. As part of the buying process, SORALUCE had to satisfy the machining demands of samples of Hardox high strength and impact abrasion resistant steel plate – a material that is widely used in coal face conveyor machinery. DEMONSTRATED SAVINGS Since installation, the machine has demonstrated overall savings of some 50% on milling and, in particular, drilling cycles, plus provided a significant reduction in tool costs, as a result of its inherent rigidity. Says Mr Wilks: 'We very rarely have to change inserts, which is helping our tool inventory and costs.' A key feature of the machine is its use of the BT50 Big Plus patented spindle system. This has enabled Seco's latest Performax indexable insert drills to be used for the first time as a test bed for the tooling supplier. Holes in brackets between 10 and 70 mm diameter, and bores up to 90 mm diameter have been produced from solid, employing the 20-bar through-the-tool coolant pressure. The SP 8000 also features adaptive feed control, DXF download and dynamic collision monitoring, plus Renishaw non-contact laser probing. Overall, the SORALUCE has achieved uptime of 80% - 75% was the target.