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Midland Precision Engineering (MPE), a precision manufacturing subcontract specialist based in Solihull, has invested in a Mikron HSM 600U Prodmod five-axis machining centre from GF Agiecharmilles.

The machine, supplied with a 36,000rev/min spindle (HSK-E50 interface), a seven-station integrated workpiece pallet changer, a 170-position ATC, through-spindle coolant and an integrated tool breakage and tool measurement system, was installed at MPE’s facility in Shirley in December 2008.

MPE’s decision to invest in the HSM 600U Prodmod machine followed its successful tender to manufacture high-precision, complex fuel system parts for a new jet aircraft prototype.

Adam Ormandy, managing director at MPE, said: ‘The fuel system, part of a major assembly, is characterised by its complexity [a multitude of asymmetrically positioned and different-sized diameter bores].

‘The fuel system was a prototype and, as such, we knew that there would be a number of design modifications and reiterations that we would need to manage.

‘To ensure we could handle these changes and meet the delivery deadlines required, as well as achieving the part-accuracy and surface-finish requirements, we knew we needed advanced five-axis machine tool technology on our side,’ he added.

The decision to invest in the Mikron machine was made for a number of reasons.

Ormandy continued: ‘It was important that the machine had an integrated APC capability so that we could load and set up jobs on the “free” pallets while the machine was still running.

‘It was also equally important that the machine had a good-size tool changer [ATC] to enable such continuous machining to occur and to give us a high degree of manufacturing flexibility and autonomy,’ he said.

The HSM 600U Prodmod’s small, compact footprint was also a key consideration.

Other issues affecting machine selection included the high-speed spindle capability of the HSM 600U Prodmod, with its coolant-through-spindle option, and the tool break and measurement system for increased process reliability.

Ormandy said: ‘In addition to an advanced five-axis machine tool, we were also looking for expert technical and applications help and assistance to be provided by the machine tool manufacturer/supplier as well.

‘Not only did the collaborative approach help us agree the machining processes to be employed but also established the best CAD/CAM solution [Delcam’s Powermill and Powershape] and helped solve the fixturing and workholding challenges that confronted us too,’ he added.

As well as recently investing in five-axis machine tool technology, MPE has also developed and improved its manufacturing operations across the board.

These include strengthening its grinding capabilities, purchasing specific testing and measurement equipment (for roundness and cylindricity), creating lean manufacturing cells, installing temperature-controlled production zones and extending its secondary operations and services (assembly, pressure testing, laser marking and vacuum packaging).

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