Hemlock and Chick Workholding maximise return

In the world of sub-contract manufacturing, speed and
accuracy rate alongside price as key factors in winning
new business. That’s certainly proved to be the case
for Hemlock Engineering, which has employed Chick
workholding systems from Kitagawa Euro


HEMLOCK ENGINEERING USES CHICK WORKHOLDING TO MAXIMISE RETURN ON MACHINING CENTRE INVESTMENT


4 April 2007 – In the world of sub-contract manufacturing, speed and accuracy rate alongside price as key factors in winning new business. That’s certainly proved to be the case for Hemlock Engineering, which has employed Chick workholding systems from Kitagawa Europe Ltd to complement the company’s investment in two new Mikron XSM 600 five-axis machining centres.



Based in Stapleford, Nottingham, 35-strong Hemlock Engineering is one of three companies comprising the Hemlock Group. Sister companies HPC Services and Impact Precision specialise in sliding head, multi axis and fixed head turning work, while Hemlock Engineering focuses on high precision multi-axis milled components for customers across a broad spread of industry sectors from food manufacture to office equipment.



“We offer customers a complete design to manufacture service and provide prototyping and full assembly capabilities, as well as sub-contract machining on site,” says Technical Support Engineer, Nick Marks. “As a result, we are just as well equipped to handle one-offs or pilot batches as extended production runs.”



Around 95% of Hemlock’s work is in aluminium, with the remainder accounted for by parts in steel, brass and stainless materials. The company’s success – and drive for increased competitiveness – over the past few years has been marked by ongoing investment in high capability CNC manufacturing equipment, notably two new Mikron XSM 600 five-axis machining centres installed at the beginning of 2006.



“The new machines increased our capacity, as well as our machining capabilities,” notes Marks. “They enabled jobs that had previously been done on other machines to be tackled more effectively and, with their on-board pallet changing facilities, allowed the production of many items to be streamlined considerably.”



In order to maximise the benefit of the new machining centres, Hemlock investigated the use of multiple component fixturing, typically to achieve five-face machining of parts in a single set-up.



“I’d used Chick equipment at a previous employer and had always found it extremely reliable and accurate for both prototype and production work,” says Marks.



To illustrate his point, he recalls using a Chick Multi-Lok tombstone unit to produce a single prototype, which subsequently grew into a regular requirement for 400 parts per week over a 10-year period – all of which were machined using the original Chick jaw set.



“That is part of the system’s appeal,” he continues. “Not only are the base units robust and strong, but the system’s jaws are easy to machine using standard tools and don’t require hardening afterwards. They grip components securely using only minimal face areas and locate exceptionally accurately – providing high precision, repeatable workholding over extended production runs if necessary.”



Unsurprisingly, his previous experience led Marks to select Chick Multi-Lok units from Kitagawa Europe to complement the capabilities of the new Mikrons. With components ranging from 10 mm x 10 mm x 10 mm up to a maximum of 300 mm x 300 mm x 450 mm, Chick type 082-4200 and 5ML 1030-41 four-sided modules have been installed in conjunction with System 3R Dynaflex pallet systems on each machine – to provide maximum manufacturing versatility and throughput.



“This combination is just as effective for single parts as it is for batch runs,” Marks continues. “The Chick system’s jaws are easily swapped to suit new jobs, yet provide the locational accuracy and repeatability required to ensure consistent high quality production.



“Dimensional accuracy and a fast turnaround are keys to winning repeat orders. With their ability to allow up to 50 small components to be processed in a single machining cycle, the Chick units help to achieve both of these criteria. They fully support Hemlock’s drive for increased responsiveness and have undoubtedly enhanced our ability to win more profitable business, particularly from customers within the aerospace and motorsport sectors.”



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