Move to high-speed milling slashes lead times at Irish toolmaker

A move from electric discharge machining (EDM) to high-speed milling has helped Irish toolmaker Galway Tool & Mould (GTM) cut its lead times by up to 20 per cent.

Investment in machining centres supplied by Hurco was key

The company – which employs 30 engineers at its Galway facility – specialises in the manufacture of high precision injection moulds for the medical, pharmaceutical and high-volume packaging sectors.

With the medical sector demanding tight tolerances, excellent surface finishes and short lead times, the firm found that the EDM techniques it was using to produce moulds were becoming too time consuming, so it made the decision to instead use high speed machining wherever possible.

According to shop-floor manager Mark Walsh, since investing in three German-built Roeders machining centres supplied by High Wycombe firm Hurco Europe, the firm has shaved as much as 70 per cent off key areas of the manufacturing process.

This has led to a doubling of turnover between 2012 and 2015 and an increase in floor area from 4,000 to 15,000ft2, with an extension of an additional 8,000ft2 currently being added.

More recently, work has been more heavily centred on pharmaceutical moulds, entailing machining of even greater complexity that requires multiple set-ups on a three-axis machine, the use of long cutters to access awkward areas from above, and repeated repositioning for side features to be included.

A five-axis vertical machining centre (VMC) was the obvious solution, so in May 2015 a Roeders RXP601 DSH with a 96-tool magazine was installed, again with automation but this time provided by a 38-position pallet change system to allow longer periods of unattended running. A second RXP601 could be served by the same automation equipment if required in the future.

The advantage of using five-axis machining on some jobs is dramatic. For instance, one of the company’s products – an inhaler mould – was previously machined in a total of eight hours on a three-axis Roeders and an EDM machine in five operations. The five-axis HSC machine tackles the same job in a single set-up in one-quarter of the time – just two hours complete.

Alongside the move to high-speed milling, the firm has also invested in metrology equipment, recently opening a laboratory for tool validation and an in-house trial facility for moulds equipped with Fanuc electric moulding machines ranging from 100 to 300 tons capacity.

The latest innovation off-line set-up of jobs on a coordinate measuring machine, which, when fully implemented, will add an extra 10 hours of production per week across the three Roeders machines.