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Laranca Engineering has invested in a Mikron UCP 600 Vario five-axis machining centre to improve the efficiency of its 24/7 manufacturing operation.

Laranca, a Solihull-based precision engineering subcontract specialist, manufactures high-precision, complex parts for customers predominantly in the F1 and motorsport sectors, and to a lesser degree, in the automotive, aerospace and defence sectors.

Laranca supplies finished parts direct to F1 teams such as Renault and McLaren, and to a number of companies in the motorsport supply chain, including Xtrac, Zytek Group, Ricardo, Ray Mallock (RML) and Prodrive.

The company also manufactures parts for classic and vintage racing car teams, including its sister company Laranca Race Engineering.

Laranca Engineering manufactures a wide variety of motorsport parts from a diverse range of materials.

Components are typically machined from solid or castings and are manufactured in small batches (prototypes and one-offs through to 10- and 20-off).

Components are manufactured from drawings, but in the case of classic car parts (where drawings do not exist), the company reverse engineers the parts.

‘Quality, cost competitiveness and delivery are the main objectives for motorsport component manufacturers,’ said Richard Shaw, Laranca’s managing director and ex-Formula Renault team owner.

From a quality perspective, Laranca manufactures high-precision parts that have tight tolerances (within three to four micron accuracy on certain machined features such as bores, thread forms, thin walls).

Similar demanding surface finish requirements are also specified on many parts, with Ra 0.2um or better not being uncommon.

Lead times for motorsport components are always tight and are measured in days rather than weeks.

To cope with these pressures, Laranca’s manufacturing operations run 24/7 and are geared around ‘just-in-time’ principles and practices.

To remain competitive and improve efficiency Laranca has introduced a number of manufacturing strategies aimed at controlling (and reducing) costs.

These include: adoption of lights-out operations and automated manufacturing; creation of dedicated manufacturing cells; investment in in-house Tig/Mig welding and fabrication capabilities; up-skilling its workforce with the latest CAD/CAM software; and investing in hard turning and hard milling technology.

It is against this backdrop of being able to manufacture parts faster, better and cheaper that Laranca made its investment in the Mikron UCP 600 Vario five-axis machine.

‘We took the decision to continue with our machine tool investment plans early in 2009 even though we’d received news that some of the contracts we’d banked on had been cancelled,’ said Shaw.

‘We recognised that we needed to replace this lost work fast and that the best way of achieving this would be to improve our manufacturing efficiency and machining capabilities.

‘We knew the significant performance benefits that can be achieved from one-hit manufacturing could be used to spearhead our quest for new work,’ he added.

The machine selected by Laranca was a Mikron UCP 600 Vario – supplied by Agie Charmilles.

It is a compact, ultra-productive, highly-flexible five-axis machining centre that is said to be capable of high-accuracy volumetric removal and superior surface finishes.

Since its installation earlier this year, the machine has helped Laranca machine parts in a single set-up thereby helping to improve delivery times, and reducing time and resources spent on workholding and fixturing.

It has also helped the company improve part accuracies as work handling and parts transfer (between machines) have been reduced.

Productivity has also been increased (improved machine tool utilisation) and production bottlenecks have been eliminated.

Six months after the UCP 600 Vario’s installation, Laranca has replaced a significant proportion of the work ‘lost’ at the beginning of the year.

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