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A recently commissioned manufacturing facility for the machining of 105mm artillery shells has kick started the MASS contractual partnership between BAE Systems and the MoD.

MASS (Munitions Acquisition – the Supply Solution) aims to deliver increased supplies of ammunition to front-line troops by modernising and ensuring sustainability of the UK munitions industry.

The recently installed manufacturing facility is currently operating at BAE Systems’ Birtley plant.

Operating alongside an existing manually operated facility, the new manufacturing cell removes operators from potentially hazardous areas, occupies a quarter of the space, requires four less operators per shift, and has increased product quality and available capacity.

The overall system comprises four separate robot-controlled manufacturing cells that are capable of independent operation to allow maintenance and retooling to be undertaken without stopping production.

The system is designed to manufacture the 105 and 155mm shell, with quick changeover routines embodied into the manufacturing processes.

Cells one to three each have two Doosan Puma CNC machine centres, supplied by Mills CNC, which provide a degree of flexibility dependent on production demand.

Cell four has a single machine centre.

Each cell has a Fanuc Robotics R2000iB/175 robot loading machine and peripheral equipment.

Shells are progressively machined in each cell and transfer between cells is managed by outputting machined parts onto link conveyors, designed by Ewab Engineering, for collection by the Fanuc robot in the next cell.

LEAN manufacturing processes are employed to identify waste within the system and, to ensure the system will run continuously with planned stoppages, cells are linked with the smallest sized buffer conveyor possible.

On receipt of order, Mills CNC contracted complete system integration of equipment and communications to Fanuc.

Advanced manufacturing software has allowed BAE Systems to develop and apply strict controls throughout the machining process and maintenance procedures.

SMS messages and email prompts are activated by the system to specific team members to ensure required human intervention is prepared and made when needed.

The four R-2000iB robots each have engineered grippers that handle the shell either on its outside diameter or the fuse-bore internal diameter.

Each cell has peripheral equipment in the form of two-way conveyors for inspection or additional process-checking purposes.

Cells three and four both have marking systems developed by Pryor, into which the cell robot positions and holds the shell as information is applied.

One of these processes involves a shell weigh inspection operation, with a pass/fail decision needed.

One cell includes an advanced robotic flaw-detect inspection system using Eddy-current and phased-array technologies supplied by NDT, into which the cell robot loads and unloads machined shells.

In another cell, the robot picks and loads a driving band to a machined groove, which is then pressed to fit in a two-press operation designed by Orwin.

Linear rails are employed in two cells to enable the respective robots a greater working range to undertake additional processes and operations to maximise their potential.

The rail units, engineered by Fanuc, effectively make the robots seven-axis units.

FANUC UK provides industrial automation solutions ranging from the supply of CNC controllers, robots, drilling machines, EDM and injection moulding machines through to the complete integration of factory automation systems.

Providing a single customer support portal for its three core businesses, FANUC comprises FA — CNC controllers, motors and drives; robotics — industrial robots and systems; robomachines — EDM, injection moulding and drilling machines.


FANUC’s FA business manufactures CNC controls, drive systems and laser systems. With a 65 per cent market share in the global CNC control sector, FANUC is the market leader. FANUC CNC is the controller of choice for the world’s leading machine tool manufacturers; continuously developing functionality sees FANUC CNC control being used in a wide range of applications — combining powerful control and high precision with unparalleled reliability.

FANUC servo drives and motors are well proven — aimed at the machine builder, they offer the widest range of high-performance compact designs.  The high availability and ease of maintenance together with world-class, energy-efficient designs make them the motors of choice for thousands of OEMs around the world.


FANUC’s robotics business manufactures the widest range of robots in the world for applications from micro-electronics assembly to the forging of precision aerofoils for jet engines — in industries as diverse as pharmaceutical and potato processing — and with maximum payloads from 1kg to 1,350kg. More than 280,000 FANUC robots are operating worldwide, with production currently geared to meet demands of 5,000 per month. FANUC robots are truly ‘out-of-the-box’ automation designed to be totally flexible and, with application-specific options, straightforward to integrate.


FANUC’s robomachine business manufactures Robodrill machining centres, Robocut EDM machines and Roboshot electric injection-moulding machines. Using FANUC components throughout, the robomachine business builds on the advanced technology, reliability, energy efficiency and innovation of its own controllers, drives and motors. With a focus on energy efficiency and high reliability, the robomachine business developed the first all-electric injection-moulding machines — Roboshot — changing the mould shop into a much cleaner and quieter environment.

Customer support

From initial sales contact with FANUC through the life of the product, FANUC provides one single contact point to make sure support is always at hand with up-to-date advice, genuine warranted parts and, whenever possible, obsolescence avoidance solutions that ensure the lifetime delivery of maximum efficiency.

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