ETG Solution is ‘Rock-on’ for Earthmoving Subcontractor

When an ageing horizontal boring centre was on its last legs and the world was entering the pandemic, Rockingham Manufacturing Ltd found the perfect cure with a Quaser horizontal machining centre (HMC) from the Engineering Technology Group (ETG).

Founded in 2004 out of the ashes of a previously failed business, Rockingham Manufacturing is a subcontract manufacturer that supports a diverse client base in the food machinery, diesel engine, earthmoving, factory spares and general manufacturing sectors. To cater for its diverse customer base, Managing Director Martin Scott believes it is imperative to have a horizontal borer or HMC to complement its four VMCs. So, when the Corby based subcontractor found its horizontal boring machine unreliable and in need of replacing, the company turned to ETG and its Quaser HX504BPF twin pallet HMC.

Recalling the situation, Martin says: “The borer was almost 30 years old and had come to the end of its life. It was unreliable, breaking down almost weekly and creating production disruption for our business, as there are particular jobs you can only really do on a horizontal – they just won’t suit a VMC. This was particularly the case for some complex mould tools, 4th-axis jobs and certain rotary components. We investigated the marketplace looking for a ‘like-for-like’ replacement when we found the Quaser HX504BPF twin pallet HMC. It was the perfect switch-up.”

The Quaser HX504BPF twin-pallet machine incorporates two 500 by 500mm fast change pallets with a capacity for parts up to 900mm by 762mm diameter weighing 500kg. The machine also has a BBT40 face and taper spindle contact system, 48m/min rapids and 5m/s2 axis acceleration. In addition, the Quaser machine was supplied with a Maxia high-performance 15,000rpm spindle, through spindle HPC and a 60 position ATC to list just a few of the features.

Discussing the arrival of the machine, Martin adds: “We took delivery of the Quaser at the height of Covid, which was a stressful time, but we continued to work throughout. We needed a machine with speed, precision and repeatability – but most importantly, it was the reliability aspect that we desperately needed. The Quaser immediately excelled. The machine has a similar weight to its predecessor but in a footprint that is 20% smaller. Despite the smaller footprint, the axis travel of 762 by 640 by 800mm in the X, Y and Z axes is considerably larger than the previous machine. Combining this larger work envelope with the high precision indexing of the B-axis, we have reduced secondary operations, as the Quaser can complete more jobs in one hit.”

“The Z and Y-axes are much larger than the previous machine and this allows us to machine bigger parts. However, it’s not just large dimension parts – but having the stability in the machine to do so. For example, we wanted to U-drill some holes at 50mm diameter in steel with the holes positioned beyond 500mm high on the Z-axis. The rigidity of the Quaser ensured this was no problem for us.”

Discussing the performance of the new Quaser HX504BPF, Martin says: “Everything is faster and better than the previous machine. The footprint is 20% smaller, overall cycle times are at least 25% faster, the tool change time of just 3.4 seconds is at least 2-3 times faster than the previous machine, and the pallet change time of just 10.5 seconds is also much faster than the previous machine. Our overall productivity on horizontal work is at least 30% faster than it was previously, but most importantly, we have reliability and consistency in our production with zero downtime.”

The 10 employee business manufactures anything from prototypes to small batches, machining everything from aluminium and steel through to stainless and aerospace-grade alloys. With such a diverse workload, the Northamptonshire company has no direct productivity comparisons with the previous machine. However, Martin says: “Everything is better! Our cycle times may be at least 25% faster, but with some jobs that require a lot of drilling and milling, the high pressure through coolant facility makes a huge difference to both our productivity rates, surface finishes, tool life and overall machine uptime. This is because we don’t have to change tools or remove swarf from the work area as frequently as before. Furthermore, the rigidity and stability of the machine construction combined with the Maxia BBT spindle, the spindle chiller system and the robust and precise APC – are all features that give us repeatability and precision of +/-0.004 and +/-0.008mm respectively.”

From a set-up perspective, the new Quaser HX504BPF machine is far easier to load than the previous machine. As Martin concludes: “The new Quaser has a pallet loading station that is very easy for our operators to access to load/unload parts and also change our workholding configuration for multiple components to locate on a single pallet. The work envelope is also easy to access as is the ATC tool management system. Furthermore, the machine has the FANUC 31i CNC unit and this is a powerful control system that we have on other machines in our facility, so we have familiarity with the CNC interface too. Overall, we are delighted with the Quaser machine from ETG and their service and support has also been exemplary – when the time arrives for new machines, we’ll certainly be putting ETG at the top of our list.”

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