Neptune Breaks The Mould With Sodick

Since its market introduction, the Sodick AD35L die sink EDM with linear motor drive has been a revelation for the tool and mould-making industry – and that is why Stevenage-based Neptune Injection has added two AD35L machines to its facility. As one of the UK’s leading injection moulding and mould tooling companies, Neptune Injection which is part of Neptune Engineering has grown exponentially with the support of Sodick Europe and sole UK distributor Sodi-Tech EDM.

The first Sodick machine was installed at Neptune Injection 12 years ago and now, the company has two AD35L die sink EDM machines, a compact high-performance Sodick VL400Q wire EDM, the market’s most precise entry-level machine – the VZ300L with linear motor drives and linear scales and also the AD30L die sink EDM. This rapid uptake in Sodick EDM technology was set in motion in 2010 when Gary Statham acquired the business that has now been in operation for over 40 years. 

Reflecting back at the start of the relationship with Sodick, Neptune Injection’s Managing Director, Mr Gary Statham says: “The relationship with Sodick goes back to when I was an apprentice and we used Sodick machines. I then worked for another mould maker in the early 2000s and that company also had Sodick spark erosion machines. When I took over this business in 2010, the company had a different brand of spark erosion technology. On the previous machines, the electrode wear was really high with very long machining times. We knew from doing test cuts with Sodick that we could reduce our lead times, reduce the time to spark and reduce the wear on electrodes. This meant that we would need fewer electrodes to do each job and the result would be less machining time on our machining centres that produce the electrodes, creating additional savings in another department.”

Now with more than 20 staff, ISO: 9001 accreditation and lights-out manufacturing capability at the Hertfordshire business, Gary recalls: “When we started, there were just three of us at Neptune. I spoke to the sales engineer at Sodi-Tech as I wanted Sodick machines based on my experience at previous companies. The Sodi-Tech engineer looked at the size of our company and helped us formulate a package deal that came within our budget and time constraints. They also provided additional training for our staff, helping us hugely along the way. When we needed backup, we would call Sodi-Tech and they would send a training engineer to us – the service is exceptional. The machine and the service are great!”

It is this remarkable level of service for the industry-leading EDM machines that has seen the relationship flourish. Alluding to this, Sodi-Tech Director of Sales, Greg Capp says: “Over 12 years ago, Neptune approached us with the need for a machine for a specific job – we delivered that machine. Since then, their business has grown and Neptune Injection is not replacing machines but investing in new technology, which is growing their business even further. Neptune Injection works in a range of different business areas and is after the same thing in all of these business segments – high accuracy, high surface finishes and repeatability. With Sodick we can achieve all of those things.”

Underpinning this sentiment, Gary Statham from Neptune Injection adds: “We are a high precision toolmaking business and that is why we use Sodick. They are high-precision machine tools that give us the accuracy we require for the features that we are spark eroding.”

Spotlighting the longstanding relationship and its evolution, Greg Capp continues: “From a small business to where Neptune Injection is now, it demonstrates our great working relationship and that Gary trusts Sodick. This trust is built upon the knowledge that the customer can get the same quality parts every single time when they use Sodick machines. The die sink and wire erosion machines work hand-in-hand and the operating system is the same, so the staff using the machines can pick it up easily and interchange from one machine to another.”

Recalling the transformation of the manufacturing sector and how Sodick’s advanced technologies and innovations have enabled Neptune to be efficient, productive and competitive, Gary continues: “The lead times and prices on jobs can be so aggressive, so it’s very important to get it right. Around 15 to 20 years ago, you would be quoting 16 to 20 week lead-times for a job, now customers are expecting delivery in 6, 8 or 10 weeks. To achieve this, you need to have a machine that is extremely efficient and can give you exceptional surface finishes and precision – and quickly. The Sodick machines have linear motors, so the positional accuracy of the electrode is ‘spot on’ and within 2µm. The surface finish goes down to a zero VDI, which means for a lot of the work we do, we don’t have to hand polish afterwards. This enables us to finish the entire job on the spark eroder – reducing our lead times, our internal costs and reducing our external costs for polishing, thereby increasing our profitability.”

Summarising how the Sodick EDM technology has enhanced manufacturing operations at Neptune, Gary says: “The footprint of the machine is small in comparison to the work envelope and this is great for us, as we don’t have the biggest facility. Furthermore, the manufacturing time is much faster than it is with other machine tool suppliers. What sets the Sodick machines apart from the competition is the repeatability, you can also achieve great surface finishes with a very fast cutting time. On machine tools from other brands, you need more electrodes to spark the jobs, which adds time and cost. On the wire machines, you often need to make additional cuts around the metalwork. So, rather than doing a job in 3 cuts, you may need to do four or five cuts to get the finished part – this extends the production time on other machines. On the Sodick EDM’s, we know that in three cuts we can achieve the impeccable precision and surface finishes that we need.”

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