Quest for Flexibility Results in Delivery of Nakamura MX-100

Quest Precision Engineering Ltd has been on a trajectory of continuous growth that has been assisted by the acquisition of seven high-end Nakamura-Tome turning centres from the Engineering Technology Group (ETG). The Scottish manufacturer initially acquired two Nakamura-Tome turning centres through the pandemic and it has just kept adding to the plant list ever since.

The Dundee company has four Nakamura-Tome WT150II turning centres, two NTY3-150 turn/mill centres and now it has added a Nakamura MX-100 that was purchased from ETG’s Scottish distribution partner RAM Engineering & Tooling. Serving customers in the oil & gas, electronics, automotive and aerospace industries, ISO9001:2015 certified Quest Precision is well versed in machining everything from simple to the most complex of components. It is this requirement for one-hit machining of complex parts from challenging materials that led to the installation of the first Nakamura in December 2019, a twin-spindle twin-turret WT150II. The impact of the WT150II resulted in a second machine being installed four months later, then another two WT150II machines arrived before stepping up to the more capable NTY3-150. This has now been followed by the company’s latest addition, the MX-100.

Before Quest installed its first Nakamura-Tome WT150II, it was machining autonomous valves for the oil and gas industry on six machine tools. The complex 2-inch diameter Inconel 718 valves that control the flow of oil from wells were time-consuming and not cost-effective enough to compete with an existing Chinese supplier. To win more business, Quest needed to increase productivity and reduce costs – the answer was the WT150II.

Discussing the situation, Quest Precision’s Managing Director, Mr Gordon Deuchars says: “For us to win more business, we had to increase throughput and reduce costs to be cost-competitive. Ross Milne from RAM Engineering & Tooling discussed the merits of a Nakamura turnkey solution and our decision was made. We reduced the cycle times by around 300% and the product was machined faster, more efficiently and repeatability was first-class.”

Yielding a 300% productivity improvement was the foundation for more Nakamura’s to follow. Discussing the latest arrival at Quest, the MX-100, Ross Milne from RAM Engineering & Tooling says: “I have known Gordon for over 20 years and we have done a lot of applications together, focusing on productivity and flexibility. This is epitomised by the Nakamura MX-100 turn/mill centre with the swivelling B-axis with opposing spindles, a lower turret and we’ve also got a gantry loader and bar feed on the machine. This machine is a proper step-change.”

Adding to this Gordon says: “Nakamura one led to Nakamura two in just three months and then around 18 months later we won a big order. This brought Nakamura three and four online. More recently, we’ve had the very complex ‘Mark 3’ valve manufactured from inconel 718. We needed a very robust machine to take us to that next level, the machine was the NTY3-150. We have now progressed to the Mark 4 valve and for this, we just installed the new MX-100 multi-axis machine.”

Looking more closely at parts on the new Nakamura MX-100 and the NTY3-150, Keir Reilly from Quest Precision says: “We are manufacturing autonomous in-flow control devices that are used for extracting oil from the reservoir without removing any water or gas from the well. We are also manufacturing the Mark 3 valve from inconel 718 and it was being done on six machines by six guys – and that’s excluding the night shift, so we had 10 guys on the job. The labour intensity was due to features such as face grooves, threads, internal seal grooves, and deep slots with just 2mm diameter and 12mm long which is hard to achieve in inconel. The part also has upstands and a lot of milling operations as well.”

“The problems included too many guys on the job and transferring parts from one machine to another was time-consuming and disrupted precision and setups. The NTY3-150 condensed six operations into one with just one operator. The machine allows us to sequentially engrave the parts on the machine – so when the part comes off the machine it is complete. This immediately freed up six machines and staff, creating hundreds of hours of capacity elsewhere that we could sell to other customers. It is also upskilling all of our employees. From this, we have now progressed to the Nakamura MX-100,” says Keir.

Adding to this, Gordon says: “The next valve is the ‘Mark 4’ which has angled holes which we cannot produce on our other machines. So, by investing in this machine we hope to develop this project and get this R&D work put to bed and the job can start getting into production.”

Building on this sentiment, Keir continues: “It has been beautiful to see the evolution of these products with the arrival of the Mark 4 valve. The parts get more difficult to produce and this keeps us on our toes. With the Nakamura MX-100, we can produce the Mark 4 in one hit. To the eye, one feature is just a hole – but it’s a 1mm diameter hole over 50mm long at an angle of over 30°. For us to machine that, I would have had to put it on a 5-axis machine which isn’t viable, but having the MX-100 allows us to do it all in one hit – this is incredible.”

Discussing why Quest needed the MX-100 machine to produce the Mark 4 valve in one hit, the cell leader at Quest, Craig McDonald says: “If we try to do this job on some of our other Nakamura’s, we would have needed to buy an angled head to machine the 32° hole. With the MX-100, we have the swinging B-axis that can do that. We have included the gantry loader, so we can fully autonomise the process with the parts being loaded via the bar feed and after machining, the gantry loader will collect the parts and move them to the conveyor at the end.”

Gordon concludes: “The relationship between ourselves and ETG has been first class. From the moment we enquired about the first machine, they have been there for us on every turnkey project that we have done. They have supported us with the selection of the right machine, tooling and at the right time. The Nakamura range offers us flexibility, efficiency and the reliability that we need as manufacturers in the subcontracting field

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