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Since the installation of its first Citizen A20-VII PL CNC sliding head automatic lathe, Lenack Engineering has cut cycle times by up to 20 per cent on certain components.

Lenack Engineering has been machining parts on Citizen CNC sliding head lathes for many years.

Managing director, Neil Bonafont, maintains that the installation of Citizen machines has rejuvenated his Haddenham company, which in recent years had seen profits slowly eroded in the supply of small turned parts to the automotive sector.

‘The opportunities in the automotive sector – which we began supplying 28 years ago – were beginning to decline very quickly, and if we had not moved into CNC sliding head technology with Citizen, we would not be in business today,’ he said.

Since the installation of the Citizen A20-VII PL, the machine has provided an almost immediate capability to slash cycle times compared to those achieved on an older Citizen L25.

Bonafont maintains that the heavier duty machine design of the A20 is immediately demonstrated by its ability to take larger cuts.

‘If you analyse where the faster cycles are being created, it’s the shorter strokes for tool movement at 18m/min rapid positioning speed with very high acceleration, and the improved Streamline Control software that enables the sequencing of axis feed to start without having to wait for the current motion of another axis to cease,’ he said.

‘This overlap helps suppress any possibility of vibration, therefore improving tool life and surface finish.’ Lenack Engineering originally set up in north London as a traditional cam auto shop with six machines.

The company slowly progressed into plugboard lathes and, at its height, seven people were employed.

The company then moved to its 3,500ft2 facility in Haddenham in 2004 and installed a pre-owned Citizen L25 from NC Engineering of Watford – now Citizen Machinery UK – that led to a doubling of the customer base.

This machine also started the ability to take on new and different types of contracts in the medical, electrical and model making sectors, plus the creation of a wide general component machining service.

Following the installation of the Citizen L25, a pre-owned L25-VII was installed in 2005 that again made a massive impact on the business.

‘We went to the Citizen curry evening at its Open House in the autumn of 2007 to see the first ever prototype of the new generation A20,’ said director Ben Khatri.

‘We ordered one on the spot as we recognised that it would generate a rapid return on the investment due to its ready-to-run package with no extras, except our choice to include the CNC Wizard programming aid.’ Both directors could also see the benefit from the faster setting for changeovers and especially the Citizen/Sandvik Coromant’s QS quick-change tool system, which allows a tool to be changed at the machine within 40s.

While waiting for the production version of the A20 to be officially available in mid-2008, the decision was also made earlier in the year to install a used Citizen L32-VII (from Citizen Machinery’s used showroom) to give the company a greater 32mm capacity and to attract new work in preparation for the A20.

One of the first orders to be processed on the Citizen A20 was for a previous customer that had been let down by its Chinese supplier and wanted to bring its source of small turn-milled parts back to the UK.

‘By the time the customer added transport costs, the hidden costs of wrong parts, and aggravation, there was very little difference in the price we were able to quote using the A20 with its single operation cycles,’ said Bonafont.

‘We also eliminated his uncertainty of supply.’ Batch sizes at Lenack Engineering tend to range between 50 to 12,000 but orders of over 50,000 parts have been produced on a range of certain medical components involving rollers and pillars for an international medical group.

The company has just completed an order for the turn-milled parts in aluminium, brass and stainless steel for 250 remote controlled helicopters destined for the US.

‘These machines have definitely increased our flexibility to respond to customers in a way we could never have foreseen, and with Citizen being just half-hour down the road, support when we need help is always readily available,’ added Bonafont.

Citizen Machinery

Citizen is the world leader in CNC sliding head ‘one-hit’ turn-milling technology. It has a range of machines having a maximum bar capacity between 4 mm on the compact micro-machining capable Citizen R04 to 32 mm on the top of the range Citizen M32-VII which has the added capability of two Y-axis cross-feeds.   

The M32 can carry up to 80 tools, of which 20 can be driven, and can cut with three tools simultaneously giving low cycle times and high levels of productivity.  Also, fully automated unmanned cycles can be utilised through an integrated gantry option and conveyor system that helps ensure damage free parts during uninterrupted batch production.  A high pressure 2,000 psi CoolBlaster coolant system is a further option to optimise swarf control, tool life and machining difficult materials.

Following the acquisition in Japan in 2008 of 65 per cent shares in Miyano, the fixed head turning centre specialist, the two companies are maintaining their separate high profile brand names utilising a single sales operation.  However, turn-milling solutions from bar up to 64 mm diameter can now be provided.  In addition, with the Miyano range of turning and turn-milling machines for chucking operations, cell-type applications can now be accommodated with a wide range of automation options.   

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